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Tobacco tax may go up in smoke this year

Negotiations between lawmakers on a proposed cigarette tax increase have stalled at the state Capitol. A key House leader says it’s possible an agreement won’t be reached this year.

Formal negotiations between the House and Senate have not begun with four weeks left in the legislative session. House Ways and Means Chairman Percy Watson said informal talks indicate the sides are still far apart.

Watson said although he is optimistic about the legislation’s chances this year, he says House leaders would rather wait till next year than go with a very small increase.

At issue is how high to hike Mississippi’s 18-cent tax, which is among the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation.