Another attempt to ban indoor smoking in the state of Mississippi died in committee on Tuesday, a swift demise for what was being hailed as broad and sweeping changes to the current smoking laws in the state.
House Bill 739 was introduced by Rep. Bryant Clark, D-47, to the state house on January 20 and referred to the House Public Health and Human Services Committee upon its introduction. Had it passed, it would have banned smoking in public and private places of employment, private clubs, residential facilities, and certain outdoor public places. Additionally, it would prohibit smoking in all enclosed areas and would extend to vehicles owned, leased or operated by the state or its subdivisions as well as property adjacent to places where smoking would be prohibited by creating a 20 foot no smoking zone from entrances, windows and ventilation systems to buildings. It also required the clear posting of no smoking signs in places of employment and other public places covered by the bill.
The bill provides no exemptions for cigar stores, retail tobacco shops or cigar lounges.
The move was heralded by Cigar Rights of America, with executive director J. Glynn Loope taking to Facebook on Wednesday to say that “we commend the Mississippi legislature for defeat of all the smoking ban and anti-small business legislation submitted for 2014. Many thanks to all of the CRA members that called and emailed their legislators in opposition to these bills. Cigar Freedom prevailed in Jackson!”
There are still a pair of bills listed as active that would affect tobacco taxes in the state, as Rep. Bob Evans (D-91) brought House Bills 1250 and 1251 to the floor on January 20, the same day they were both referred to the House’s Ways and Means Committee, a committee that Evans does not sit on.
HB 1250 would impose an excise tax on cigarettes of $0.059 per single unit sold, a move that would increase the per-pack tax from $0.68 to $1.18.
HB 1251 would institute higher taxes on all other tobacco products, including cigars, which are all currently taxed at a rate of 15% of the manufacturer’s price. Rep. Evans’ proposal would increase that rate to 22.5%.
If passed, both measures would go into effect on July 1, 2014.