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Kentucky Health Advocate: Raise the State's Cigarette Tax By $1

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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.”

Dr. Withrow says that an increase in the tobacco tax could help boost revenue and decrease costs to Kentucky’s public health systems. He believes a tax increase along with a recently enacted smoking cessation bill--which requires insurance providers to fund medications and counseling—would encourage more Kentuckians to stop smoking.

Dr. Withrow admits including the tax increase on other nicotine systems like vaping could be a challenge.

“It needs to be included, it’s easy to put a tax on a cigarette pack. It’s more difficult when you’re talking about the whole spectrum of vaping, fluids and vaping devices that are being used. But absolutely it needs to be included.”

Kentucky ranks number one in cigarette use out of all 50 states. The commonwealth also leads the nation in lung cancer deaths.

Former student intern Alana Watson rejoined WKU Public Radio in August 2020 as the Ohio Valley ReSource economics reporter. She transitioned to the station's All Things Considered Host in July of 2020. Watson is a 2017 graduate of Western Kentucky University and has a B.A. in Broadcasting Journalism. She also has her M.A in Communications from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. Watson is a Nashville native and has interned at WPLN-FM in Nashville. In 2019, she won a Tennessee AP Broadcaster & Editors Award for her sports feature on Belmont University's smallest point guard. While at WKU Public Radio she won Best College Radio Reporter in 2016 from the Kentucky Ap Broadcasters Association for her work on post-apartheid South Africa. Watson was previously at Wisconsin Public Radio as thier 2nd Century Fellow where she did general assignment and feature reporting in Milwaukee.
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