Plug it: ‘Little Tobacco’ should be taxed equitably

Gov. Haley Barbour has said he might include supplemental tobacco fees in a special session call, perhaps this week. We won’t know until the governor — who has the power to control topics when lawmakers meet outside their regular dates — prepares his letter setting the agenda.

Going into the 2009 session, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Legislature would increase Mississippi’s excise tax on cigarettes. That was done. Mississippi’s 18 cents-per-pack levy was hiked to 68 cents per pack, effective within weeks of the federal increase to $1.01 per pack.

Add Mississippi’s 7 percent sales tax and it’s clear smokers are paying a lot more for cigarettes today than a few months ago.

But there’s another number in the tally.

Twelve years ago this month, former Attorney General Mike Moore settled a lawsuit against what is commonly called “Big Tobacco.” The term groups major brands who agreed in the settlement to make annual payments to compensate the state for providing medical services to Medicaid and other citizens with tobacco-related illnesses.

The overall revenue difference to the state would not be great. It’s just a matter of equalization. And it should be done.

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