JACKSON, MS — February 18, 2021 — The unpredictable and dynamic nature of COVID-19 is no match for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network's (ACS CAN) volunteers' steadfast commitment. Because of the virus and the elevated risk for those with compromised immune systems, cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers from across are traveled virtually to the state capitol yesterday to meet with Mississippi’s lawmakers about the need to address tobacco’s deadly toll in the state with life-saving legislation.
“While the pandemic means we cannot meet in person, cancer hasn’t stopped and neither have we,” shared Christina Wright, ACS CAN State Lead Ambassador. “Our virtual day of action is an opportunity to tell our legislators that we are counting on them to continue to help save lives from cancer, as well as reduce tobacco use and health care costs, by increasing our state’s tobacco taxes by $1.50 per pack of cigarettes with a parallel tax on all other tobacco products.”
Currently, Mississippi has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation at 68 cents per pack, with no tax on e-cigarettes, and one of the highest smoking rates in the nation. An estimated 5,400 Mississippians die from smoking every year and youth tobacco use, largely driven by skyrocketing rates of e-cigarette use, has reached epidemic levels with 27.6% of Mississippi high schoolers using tobacco products. Additionally, people who smoke or used to smoke are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Making all tobacco products more expensive through significant tobacco tax increases is one of the most effective ways to prevent youth from starting and help adults quit.
"Despite tobacco being the most preventable cause of disease, lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer death and incidence in Mississippi,” noted Pearl Carter, ACS CAN volunteer. “As a cancer survivor, I let my lawmakers know if we're going to eliminate cancer as a major health problem in Mississippi, such legislation must be top of mind for our legislature this year.”
Public health projections from ACS CAN and the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids show a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase would save roughly 7,400 lives, help 19,300 adults quit smoking and keep 8,800 kids under age 18 from becoming adults who smoke. It will also benefit the state financially as the cigarette tax increase is projected to generate over $142 million in new annual revenue. Raising the tax on other tobacco products at the same time to parallel the new cigarette tax rate would generate an additional $30 million in new annual revenue. It is also estimated that the cigarette tax increase would save the state about $1.81 million in Medicaid costs during the first five years.
Even as we face this pandemic, an estimated 18,750 Mississippi residents will be diagnosed with cancer this year and 6,580 residents will die from the disease. Mississippi also has the third highest rate of smoking-related cancer cases in the country.
To learn more about ACS CAN in Mississippi, visit http://www.fightcancer.org/ms.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.