The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Miss. smokers rank third in nation

    According to a review by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Mississippi is tied for third in adult smoking rates for 2006.Both Mississippi and Oklahoma have an adult smoking prevalence of 25.1 percent, topped only by Kentucky and West Virginia at 28.6 percent and 25.7 percent, respectively.
    The lowest smoking rate was 9.8 percent in Utah.
    The study surveyed adults between the ages of 18 and 35 in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    The survey placed the adults into three groups: ever, current and former smokers.
    The editorial note in the report also stated that tobacco-control programs should target young adults because adults who stop smoking before age 35 have a similar life expectancy to those who have never smoked.
    A report from The Associated Press said Mississippi was one of the first states to sue tobacco companies to gain funds for treating smokers with health problems.
    Some smokers were depending on public health care, thus adding costs to the state.
    The lawsuit, settled in 1997, is issuing Mississippi about $4 billion during the first 25 years of the contract, with most of the funds going to the State’s Health Care Trust Fund.
    Tobacco companies were to give Mississippi millions to start an anti-smoking program specifically for young adults.
    Mike Moore, who was state attorney general at the time, created the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.
    After funds for the Partnership ran out, Moore received a court order for $20 million to be given to the Partnership from the lawsuit payments each year, but did not have a vote from the full House and Senate.
    The AP report said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and state Treasurer Tate Reeves sued to stop payments to the Partnership.
    In June 2006, the Partnership shut down after a ruling from the state Supreme Court.
    Barbour also vetoed two bills in 2006 that would have increased cigarette tax and decreased the grocery tax.
    State Rep. Frances Fredericks, D-Harrison, who is the vice chair of the public health and human services committee, said she has considered ramifications of raising the cigarette tax.
    “If raising the cigarette tax will cause those who are smoking to think twice about buying a pack of cigarettes, then I support it.
    I think that people will look at the costs,” she said.
    Fredericks also said she agrees with raising the cigarette tax if it means a decrease in the grocery tax because citizens need more money for food.
    She said that if cigarette taxes were higher, some might not even consider starting to smoke because of the costs.
    High smoking rates mean an increased pull on state health care, Fredericks said.
    “You’re not trying to paint anyone in a bad light,” she said. “The costs of smoking are very expensive because you pay for it with your health. Usually that cost has to be paid by the state and then it becomes a cost to everybody.”
    State Rep. Blaine Eaton, D-Smith, Jones and Covington, said there had been an effective program about smoking awareness in schools but last year’s state Supreme Court’s ruling put it on hold.
    “The Senate and House could not agree on a program, so basically all we have is a school nurse program from the smoking and anti-tobacco fund,” Eaton said.
    In looking at states with higher cigarette taxes, there are a fewer number of smokers, he said.
    “Based on the information we’ve been provided, if you see an increase in the cigarette tax, you see a decrease in consumption,” Eaton said. “We’re [Mississippi] the third lowest in cigarette tax and we’re third highest in smoking. It’s an issue of tax fairness. You have a choice with smoking but you don’t have a choice for eating.”
    Fredericks said the number of young people smoking should be a concern.
    “I think that young people are smoking during their child-bearing years,” she said.
    She said this leads to health problems for babies and children, including low birth-weight babies and other birth and health issues.

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    Miss. smokers rank third in nation