Editorial: Cigarette Tax

The Mississippi House voted this week to increase the state's excise tax on cigarettes by $1 a pack.

At only 18 cents a pack, Mississippi has one of the lowest excise rates on cigarettes in the nation. In our WDAM.com web poll this week 62% of you agreed with the House on raising the tobacco tax while 38% said no.

Under the House plan, the cigarette tax would go to the financially strapped Medicaid program. Governor Haley Barbour stood solidly against the tobacco tax increase last year saying he did so because he was against raising taxes in any form. However, this year the Governor has a plan to impose a hospital bed tax to help pay for Medicaid.

Even though the bill passed by a 74 to 42 margin in the House, it is expected to die in the Senate. Even if the Senate should pass it, Barbour is expected to veto it.

I don't get it. None of us like taxes. But, if given the choice to impose an additional bed tax on folks who have to stay in the hospital in the midst of a health care crisis, something not helped by smoking by the way, or putting a tax on smokers to indulge their habit - well it just seems like a no brainer to me.

I'm not one of those rabid anti-smokers. But just maybe the higher tax will encourage some to quit. If not, it will keep people who have to go to the hospital from having to pay even more for a bed. Once again, it's about priorities and common sense. Unfortunately, these qualities all too often get lost in the world of politics.

I'm Jim Cameron and that's today's viewpoint.  Let us know what you think.

Email Jim Cameron at jcameron@wdam.com