The Invest in a Healthier Future Coalition met at the Capitol on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to increase the current state cigarette tax in an attempt to improve the health of the state’s citizens.

They’re encouraging a $1.50 per pack increase.

“The polling results released today confirm what we know and regularly hear in conversations with Mississippians,” said Katherine Bryant, Director of government relations for the American Heart Association in Mississippi. “Tobacco-related illnesses are expensive and harmful for all of us. Yet, in Mississippi, tobacco remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death. Tobacco is an addictive and deadly product, and higher cigarette taxes are proven to help people quit and help young people never start.”

Currently, Mississippi’s cigarette tax is 68 cents per pack, ranking it 40th in the nation and contributing to the state’s very high adult smoking rate and low life expectancy. The average state cigarette tax is $1.78 per pack and it has been 10 years since Mississippi hast raised the cigarette tax.

A statewide telephone survey of 500 registered voters was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in October. It found that every region in Mississippi showed 67 to 78 percent support in raising the tax, and 73 percent statewide.

“Mississippi supports raising the cigarette tax more than the possibility of increasing other taxes,” said Gleb Bolger, partner with Public Opinion Strategies. “Support is wide and deep. We found the $1.50 cigarette tax increase is much more palatable than other options, with this being a policy that would save lives and help the state budget.”

Smoking kills an estimate 5,400 Mississippians annually and 1,400 children under 18 become new daily smokers each year according to, Toll of Tobacco, Mississippi, Tobacco Free Kids. It also costs the state $1.23 billion in direct healthcare costs, including $319.7 million in Medicaid costs every year. Additionally, Mississippi experiences $1.8 billion in productivity losses because of tobacco use annually. Meanwhile the state spends $8.4 million on tobacco prevention and cessation annually, far below funding levels recommended by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The poll also found the majority of smokers in Mississippi support the $1.50 per pack increase.