We are Louisiana. We do not want to be Mississippi. And, right now our Louisiana legislature is trying to do just that. With only a 32-cent increase in the tobacco tax that puts us at a 68-cent tobacco tax equal to our neighbors. That 68-cent tobacco tax has showed that it is not enough of a deterrent to smoking as Mississippi has the highest rate of cardiovascular deaths in the country.

We want more for our citizens. We are poised to be able to make a momentous change in the health of the state with a tobacco tax. However, if we fall short of the mark, we are not going to receive the potential public health outcomes.

We need a significant increase in the proposed tobacco tax. If we want to be like neighboring states, let’s look to Texas and Arkansas as a more appropriate example with their taxes at $1.41 and $1.15, respectively.

According to the American Heart Association, over 10,000 lives are lost in Louisiana a year from heart disease and stroke. A major influencer of those being smoking, a controllable risk factor that is impacting our community. If we want that number to change, we need to make strong change in order to make an impact and take a stance.

Tobacco has a devastating impact on the health and budget of Louisiana. States with higher cigarette taxes have lower smoking rates. Leveraging the budget shortfall gives us an opportunity for a tobacco tax win that helps us save lives.

Kay Eddleman

American Heart Association volunteer

New Orleans