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A Kentucky doctor wants to improve the overall health of the state by increasing the tobacco tax.

Dr. Patrick Withrow, a retired cardiologist and the Director of Outreach at Baptist Health Paducah, believes that raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes by one dollar could help reduce smoking in adolescents, pregnant women, and low-income populations.

“This is an opportunity to kill several birds with one stone,” Dr. Withrow told WKU Public Radio. “And baby steps are important. If we can’t get all we want, we at least need to start. The most important reason we do this for is the health of Kentuckians.”

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Kentucky has ranked first in the country in deaths from lung cancer for years, and about a third of those deaths were related to smoking, according to a 2016 study released by the American Cancer Society.

A lot of public attention is now focused on overdose deaths from heroin and other drugs, but studies show deaths from lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers were three times as high as deaths from overdoses in 2015.

I spoke with Heather Wehrheim, advocacy director of the American Lung Association in Kentucky. She says addressing the public health effects of tobacco use should be more of a priority for not only the state, but also the public.

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Ten months after completing a smoking cessation class, Terrence Silver started smoking cigarettes again. It was his first attempt at quitting after smoking for 40 years. His biggest motivation to quit: cost.

“That was the primary reason I was going to quit, the money,” Silver said. “It wasn’t health, wasn’t that I didn’t like it. It was the money.”

Silver lives across the river in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where the tax on cigarettes is 99 cents per pack. So he comes to Kentucky to buy his cigarettes, where the tax is 60 cents.

Silver said when he took the smoking cessation class in April of 2015 — offered through the Metro Department of Public Health — he learned about his triggers: every time he gets in his car, he reaches for a cigarette.

Kentucky Tobacco Company in Dispute With Feds

Mar 17, 2014

A Kentucky-based tobacco company is involved in a $3 million tax dispute with the federal government and is asking a judge to stop the potential seizure of its equipment to settle the bill.

U. S. District Judge Joseph McKinley, Jr. has scheduled a hearing for March 25th in Bowling Green on a request by Tantus Tobacco of Russell Springs for a temporary injunction against the U. S. Treasury Department. The dispute centers on whether Tantus properly set sale prices for its products from September 2009 through November 2011 and paid the proper amount of excise taxes on the sales.

The Treasury Department has threatened to file liens against equipment used by Tantus to settle the debt.

Tantus makes Berley Red, Sport, Main Street and GSmoke brand cigarettes.