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LA House bill would raise cigarette tax by $0.68 a pack - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

LA House bill would raise cigarette tax by $0.68 a pack

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LOUISIANA -

Smoking kills, but under one bill at the Louisiana legislature it could also breathe more life into LSU's Medical School in Shreveport.

Representative Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) hopes to raise the cigarette tax $0.68 a pack. House Bill 537 will go before the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday.

Jackson said Monday in a phone interview, this would generate more than $1.29 billion in revenue for the state, and she wants to dedicate 50 percent of that to LSU's Medical Schools in New Orleans and in Shreveport.

‘Right now it's $25 million [to the two schools]," said Jackson. "We're working on an amendment now that would take two-thirds of that and make sure it goes to the Shreveport Medical School."

Jackson said the med schools in Louisiana run a $55 million deficit each year. Shreveport's med school is $42 million in the hole alone.

Jackson said the money from the cigarette tax will fix the deficit by half.

"This is very important because our graduate medical education programs are vital not only to Shreveport but to the entire state," she said. "If we can't keep the physicians here to train them, then we will begin to have a shortage of physicians."

Dr. Phillip Rozeman agrees the money from the tax will help keep future physicians in the area, but he said it also keeps Louisianaians healthy.

"It's been shown by a lot of studies that increasing the tobacco tax will reduce the consumption of tobacco, especially in younger people," said Rozeman.

He said the less people who smoke and get sick from smoking related diseases, the more money the non-smokers will save.

"All the health care that's provided [for the smokers], a lot of it's paid for by the non-smokers through their insurance premiums, that go up because of all the smoking related diseases," Rozeman said.

A different cigarette tax bill went before a house committee Monday morning.

It wanted to raise the tax by a $1.05 a pack, but the representative—Harold Ritchie of Bogalusa—pulled it before the vote. He said he did not believe it had enough support to make it to the house floor.

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