Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Mississippi. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Mississippi calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Increase Mississippi's cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack;
- Ensure smokefree protections for all workers and residents with the passage of a comprehensive statewide smokefree law; and
- Sustain tobacco control prevention and cessation funding for the Mississippi State Department of Health, Office of Tobacco Control.
Members of the Mississippi Legislature once again failed to consider legislation that would prohibit smoking in all public places, workplaces and casinos during the 2017 legislative session. Tobacco control partners continued to educate lawmakers on the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and the impact on health in Mississippi. A comprehensive statewide bill, House Bill 1204, the Mississippi Smoke-free Air Act of 2017, was introduced, but did not garner the support needed for momentum through the policy process. House Bill 1721 and House Bill 81 were also introduced to increase the price of cigarettes by $1.00 and to increase the minimum sales age of tobacco products to 21, respectively. Unfortunately, these bills were not identified as priority legislation by the Mississippi Legislature. The House of Representatives and the Senate did pass legislation to sustain the amount of funding to the Mississippi State Department of Health's Office of Tobacco Control for youth prevention, tobacco free community coalitions, and adult cessation programs statewide.
There continues to be significant support in local municipalities for public health protections from secondhand smoke as evidenced by 143 cities adopting comprehensive smokefree ordinances. This accounts for approximately 34 percent of Mississippians being protected by smokefree policies.
In 2018, the American Lung Association in Mississippi will continue to educate and advocate to state legislators about the benefits of tobacco control policies, including increasing the state's cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack. In order to meet the bold goals in Mississippi, state legislators will need to recognize the health and economic burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. The Lung Association in Mississippi will continue to work with partners in the Smokefree Mississippi coalition to ensure successful passage and preservation of comprehensive local smokefree ordinances.