Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise and other LDH medical directors say the increased tax on cigarettes proposed in the Legislature will lead to a decrease in cigarette smoking, particularly among young smokers and potential smokers.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and here in Louisiana,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “Research has shown us for years that smoking leads to increased risk for cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other serious illnesses. We also know that young smokers are very sensitive to price, and that raising the price of cigarettes will reduce this harmful behavior in our young people.”

House Bill 437, under review in the Legislature, proposes adding an extra dollar in taxes on each package of cigarettes sold in Louisiana. The tax revenue would go to fund other state programs.

Dr. Cerise, State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Medicaid Medical Director Dr. Roxane Townsend and the state’s nine public health regional medical directors all say the higher tax on cigarettes and a higher price per pack could serve as a big deterrent from smoking.

“We all already pay a high price for the effects of smoking, in terms of health care costs and lost workplace productivity,” Dr. Cerise said. “If raising the price of cigarettes can discourage smoking at the onset, we can ultimately save money as a state and most importantly, we can take more steps to prevent the 6,400 smoking-related deaths that occur in Louisiana each year.”

Health care costs to treat smoking-related illness in Louisiana are approximately $1.35 billion each year, $611 million of which is paid through the Medicaid program. Additionally, smoking-caused productivity losses, which can result from early retirement for disability or early death caused by smoking, cost the state $1.79 billion each year.

“As we move toward a greater emphasis on preventive health care for our Medicaid recipients, it makes sense to take steps that discourage smoking,” Dr. Townsend said. “If we can curb smoking rates, we will also curb our rates of lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer mortality in Louisiana. Statistics show that lung cancer in our state is primarily caused by tobacco usage, not chemical exposure or other industrial causes.”

For more information on DHH’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, or other health initiatives to decrease smoking, visit Media interested in interviewing a state doctor in their area about the harmful health effects of smoking should contact the LDH Bureau of Media and Communications at (225) 342-1532.