The higher tax would discourage teenagers from smoking and developing what is often a life-long and deadly habit, said Dr. Jacqueline Fincher of Thomson, who is vice president of the Georgia chapter of the American College of Physicians.
More than 180,000 Georgia children will grow up to die of cancer, she said, noting that 8.5 percent of all middle-school students here say they already smoke.
"I have spent a lot of time and effort trying to get my patients to quit smoking. The reality is that most smokers started as teenagers. Ask them," she said. "We know that increasing the tobacco tax directly helps to prevent and decrease smoking in all age groups, but especially teenagers."
The measure is awaiting a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee. Its sponsor, Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, told the doctors he is gaining optimism about its chances.
"The momentum is there," he said. "It's moving."