Something happened in Mississippi this past week that many thought would never happen. Governor Haley Barbour, who for years has opposed a cigarette tax increase, signed a fifty cent tax increase for each pack of cigarettes.
Mississippians will now pay 68 cents state tax on each pack. That is in addition to the federal tax of one dollar and one cent per pack. The tax increase is expected to bring in around 115 million dollars annually to help shore up the state's ailing economy.
No doubt there are plans on how each dollar of this new tax increase will be spent. There is talk of taking part of the money to help shore up a fund that lowers the cost of car license tags. In addition the additional money would help pay for other state services, including Medicaid, a government funded health plan for the poor and disabled.
But the best long term result from the tax increase is more people will stop smoking. The American Cancer Society estimates that Mississippi will see an 8.5 percent decrease in youth smoking. That means 16,000 Mississippi kids will not pick up the habit. And the cancer society says we'll save more than 350 million dollars in long term health care as adult and youth smoking declines.
We have two hopes. One is that this will actually improve the health of many Mississippians. The other is that the state legislature will spend the new cigarette tax money wisely.
That's our opinion, we would like to hear yours. Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your comments below.
WLOX-TV Station Manager