Buck-fifty may be too ambitious

By STAFF REPORTS,

It’s improbable that Mississippi lawmakers will agree to more than double the state’s tax on cigarettes, as an anti-tobacco coalition proposes.

It’s difficult to get any tax increase through the GOP-dominated Legislature, even a modest one.

But if the cigarette tax were to be jacked up from the current 68 cents a pack to $2.18, as the Invest in a Healthier Future Coalition proposes, a couple of conservative thinkers have warned to beware of unintended consequences.

In a guest column that appeared over the weekend in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Jameson Taylor and Michael LaFaive said that $7-a-pack cigarettes will lead many Mississippians to cross state lines to purchase their smokes or to buy from smugglers. 

They estimate that smuggling in the state would jump from 4 percent currently to 35 percent if the tax were increased by $1.50 a pack.

That sounds like a stretch. Their point, though, is worth considering. 

The main reason for raising the tax is to discourage smoking. Lawmakers don’t want to raise it so high that it backfires and creates a new black market.

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