Anti-Smoking Groups Fight To Raise Cigarette Taxes - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/08/03

Anti-Smoking Groups Fight To Raise Cigarette Taxes

Many smokers will tell you their habit is an expensive one. And a Mississippi health advocacy group wants to make it even more costly. About 40 health related groups are teaming up a second time to push for a cigarette tax increase.

Sean Courtney with "The Communities for a Clean Bill of Health" says his group has proof that a 50 cent per pack increase would curb smoking and fuel the state's budget.

"About 32 states including the District of Columbia in 2002 have increased their tobacco taxes significantly in attempts to reduce smoking related illnesses in the state and to increase economic stimulation," Courtney said.

The group came armed with facts and figures done at Mississippi State. The study says more than 60 percent of Mississippi smokers support a cigarette tax increase and more than 56 percent of all Mississippi adults support one.

Richard Bruister is an ex-smoker who says the increase would be worthwhile.

"It will greatly increase funds that could be used to not only educate our youth and other people that have not started smoking, and would prevent them from ever smoking."

But some lawmakers aren't excited about the possibility.

"I would be opposed to a five cent increase on any taxes," Senator Terry Burton said.

Burton, who smokes, says a law would to little to curb smoking.

"They'll buy cheaper cigarettes, or they'll buy cigarettes that are off brand and that kinda thing. They won't quit smoking, as a general rule."

Regardless, the Communities for a Clean Bill of Health will go forward with its idea for the second year in a row. Right now the smokers pay 18 cents per pack in state taxes alone. Legislation to increase the cigarette tax failed to make it out of committee last year.

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