The Daily World, Opelousas, La., on tobacco tax legislation:
Gov. Bobby Jindal will be heading in the right direction if he follows through with support of a $1 hike in the state's tobacco tax. It would raise the tax from 36 cents to $1.36, which is still lower than the national average rate of $1.48.
This is a welcome about-face for Jindal. Just two years ago, he opposed renewal of a 4-cent per pack tax on cigarettes.
Anti-smoking groups are applauding the possible tax hike as a measure to reduce smoking rates in the state, especially among teens and younger children.
We agree it's a good move. It's a matter of health and economics.
About 6,500 adult Louisiana residents die from smoking-related illness each year, according to tobaccofreekids.org, a website that lists smoking data for each state. ...
Some say that raising the price of a pack of cigarettes will not affect smoking behavior.
But Andrew Muhl, Louisiana government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said his organization's statistics show that when cigarette prices go up 10 percent, there is a 6.5 percent reduction of smoking in youth consumption and a 2 percent reduction for adults.
Although this new tax, if the Jindal administration continues to support it, will hit smokers in the pocketbook, consider how smoking hits everyone in Louisiana in the pocketbook.
Smoking-related health care costs in Louisiana ring up at $1.47 billion. The cost to Medicaid in Louisiana, which is funded by taxpayers, is $663 million.
A $1 increase in the tax would generate about $223 million in revenue, Muhl said.
If the Jindal administration does push through a cigarette tax, it's not known at this point how the money would be used.
But Muhl said his organization is also working with legislators to introduce a similar bill — and their bill would target health care as the beneficiary of the money the tax would generate. ...
Either way, the tax would be a good thing for Louisiana. We urge the state's legislators to support its introduction and passage in the upcoming legislative session that begins in April.
It would be, at the very least, a means of deterring new generations of young people from getting hooked on this highly addictive product that causes a range of illnesses, from cancer to heart disease to stroke.
And rather than punishing behavior, as some would cast it, the tax would bring new, desperately needed money into the state's coffers.