, 2/26/9

Mississippi lawmakers say they’re still making a serious effort to increase the state cigarette tax this year, even though it’s been nearly a month since they did any substantial work to meet that goal.

Talks in Mississippi have hit a lull because legislators are trying to meet deadlines on hundreds of other bills, said state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dean Kirby (nyse: KEX – news – people ), a Republican from Pearl.

We’re very serious and we realize that the majority of the people think it should be increased,” Kirby said of the state’s 18-cents-a-pack cigarette tax, the nation’s third-lowest.

Since the last big discussion at the Mississippi Capitol in late January, Congress has jumped ahead and enacted a federal cigarette tax increase to help pay for a national children’s health insurance program. On April 1, the federal tax will jump to $1.01 a pack, up from 39 cents a pack.