MPHA, with more than 65 other Mississippi health organizations, supports a $1.50 per pack tax increase on cigarettes to generate approximately $153 million in new revenue and reduce Medicaid expenditures.
Dr. Nelson Atehortua De la Pena, MPHA board member, recently addressed the impact of a tobacco tax increase in Mississippi as a guest columnist for The Clarion Ledger. You can read Dr. A’s column below.
Opinion This piece expresses the views of its author(s), separate from those of this publication.
Addressing Mississippi’s health problems requires urgently raising tobacco taxes
The nation’s most preventable cause of disease is simultaneously one of Mississippi’s deadliest. Tobacco continues to reap a heavy toll in our communities. Every year, 1,000 children and teenagers in the state become new daily smokers and smoking-related cancer cases remain at an all-time high, ranking third in the nation. It’s no surprise Mississippi bears such a tobacco burden. When it comes to passing proven-effective tobacco control policies, our state is seriously lacking and overdue for action to end preventable suffering and death from tobacco-related disease.
To see just how far Mississippi is falling behind when it comes to tobacco control policies, you can look at our current tobacco tax rate. Despite significant and regular tobacco tax increases being one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use and prevent young people from ever becoming addicted, our state has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation – at a mere 68 cents per pack of cigarettes with no tax on e-cigarettes. Unfortunately, the tobacco tax increase recently proposed in House Bill 1439 is simply too low to fix this and have the intended public health impact. Pushing ineffectively low tobacco taxes like this one is a devious tactic straight from Big Tobacco’s playbook to keep their products cheap enough to addict consumers. Not only do significant tobacco tax increases reduce tobacco use and save lives they also generate needed revenue, reduce the impact of health care costs for the state and help to alleviate the burden of monetary and non-monetary costs of the consumption of tobacco on families with low-income. Specifically, increasing our cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack with a parallel tax on all other tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – would help to both ease the total $1.23 billion in annual state health care costs directly caused by smoking, and to bring in over $170 million in new annual revenue to the state’s treasury. Such funds could address the pandemic-driven gaps in our state budget and fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs that would further reduce tobacco use in the state. As if saving thousands of young and adult lives as well as millions in state dollars is not enough, today’s most leading public health problems make the need for such strong action even more urgent. The pandemic continues to bring to light the critical role public health policy plays in Mississippians’ ability to live a long and healthy life – free from the
Nelson Atehortua de la Pena Submitted/Special to Clarion Ledger
ills of tobacco use. Placing an impactful tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes that are currently not taxed as a tobacco product, is proven to bring meaningful change by preventing another generation from becoming addicted to deadly tobacco products. E-cigarettes have driven the highest youth tobacco rate we have seen in 20 years, and studies have found that e-cigarette use increases the risk of youth and young adults using cigarettes. It is abundantly clear that as tobacco continues to wreak a substantial health and economic burden on our state, lawmakers must act quickly and effectively to address it. The health and economic benefits of increasing our state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack with a parallel tax on all other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, makes it a commonsense solution. Only by providing the support our communities need to get there can we move Mississippi to a healthier state. There has never been a more crucial time. Nelson Atehortua de la Pena is an assistant professor at the Jackson State University’s School of Public Health and a volunteer with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.