The Sun Herald, 1/28/9

Smokers might soon have to pay higher cigarette taxes in Mississippi, and the owner of a small grocery store in the northeastern corner of the state says he’s worried about losing cross-border customers.

“If you pop a big tax on ’em, what’s going to happen is I’m going to be higher on prices than the surrounding states,” said Rick Sparks of Golden Grocery, about 5 miles west of Alabama and 20 miles south of Tennessee.

Mississippi’s current cigarette excise tax is 18 cents a pack. That’s the third lowest in the nation, according to the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

The state Senate Finance Committee voted Wednesday to increase the cigarette excise tax from 18 cents to 49 cents a pack on March 1, matching the average tax for the surrounding states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama.