There’s mixed reaction over the possibility of raising the sales tax on cigarettes in Mississippi. The purpose behind it is to discourage children and adults from smoking or continuing to smoke.
Legislators drafted five bills to propose a tax increase, but they all failed. There is still an active Senate bond bill that could be revised with a tax increase.
We spoke to Mississippi Congressman Robert Foster via Facetime. He doesn’t expect a vote on this issue at all. He says the Senate committee took a section of the current law and put it into a bill, but didn’t make any changes, like how much of a tax increase there would be.
Foster says it still could happen, but there are no details, only conversations that have taken place.
“The Senate didn’t actually pass an increase in the cigarette tax. They passed a bill that had the code section for the cigarette tax in it, but they didn’t change the amount of the tax,” said St. Rep. Foster.
Sales tax on a pack of cigarettes in Mississippi is $0.68. St. Rep. Foster says The American Cancer Society proposed the cigarette tax be increased to a $1.50 per pack. Foster says he understands why, but he’s not convinced it would work.
“I think people have to make a personal decision whether to smoke or not smoke. The tax amount on the cigarettes is not gonna change that,” said St. Rep. Foster.
Currently a pack of cigarettes in Mississippi including tax will cost you about $5.47. With a tax increase, the average cost would jump to $6.29 a pack.
That’s a big difference compared to neighboring states. Tennessee has the lowest average cost per pack at $5.10. In Arkansas, a pack will cost you an average of $5.49.
“My wife smoked a long time and it didn’t matter when it goes up, they still smoke,” said Leo Welsh.
“Maybe if we do raise, it may eliminate some people cost-wise not being able to maybe afford them, so they cut back or maybe even quit,” said Lindsay Kaiser.
According to St. Rep. Foster, as of now there’s only talk of a sales tax increase on cigarettes in Mississippi. The legislative session ends in a couple of weeks.