The March of Dimes has released a new report today that gives Kentucky one of the country’s worst rankings in terms of premature births. A number of state lawmakers have formed a caucus to try to push through legislation to improve that number.
Kentucky ranks 46th in the nation for premature births. Fifteen-percent of babies born in the Commonwealth are premature. Health officials say the number-one preventable cause of premature birth is smoking – and legislators on the new Healthy Babies Caucus say they’ll work to increase the state’s cigarette tax, with the hope of reducing smoking in the state.
“I think the House is still behind it, but member that were in the House last year did vote for a 35-cent and I think there were folks that were willing to go higher on that,” says Representative Joni Jenkins.
The Senate failed to pass the House-approved increase in the last legislative session. Kentucky’s current cigarette tax is 30-cents per pack. It’s among the lowest in the nation.