Statement: The Children’s Defense Fund News Conference

Statement by William D. Novelli, President, CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS

May. 13 1997

Washington, DC - The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS strongly supports the Hatch-Kennedy Bill aimed at increasing the federal tax on tobacco products to pay for health insurance for children. The CAMPAIGN also supports and applauds all efforts to pass this legislation into law. The proposal to raise the federal cigarette tax by 43 cents per pack (and a proportional increase for smokeless tobacco products) will generate much-needed revenue and reduce the number of kids who use tobacco by making these products less accessible to them. The evidence in support of raising the tax on tobacco products is clear: • Tobacco kills 419,000 Americans a year – more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, suicides, homicides and drugs combined. It is the single greatest cause of preventable death we face. • Numerous independent studies of past tax increases show that for every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, adult smoking drops four percent, with even greater decreases of smoking by kids. • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that tobacco costs our economy $50 billion in direct health costs, and another $50 billion in lost productivity. • The CDC recently reported that teen smoking rose for the fifth year in a row. CDC predicted that even if the trend simply levels off, five million children alive today will ultimately die from tobacco-related diseases and cost our economy $200 billion. The public supports such an increase. A Penn+Schoen, Inc. telephone survey conducted in December 1996 showed that 87 percent of the American The public supported a tobacco tax increase if it were used to expand health care for children. This makes it easy to understand why more than 20 have signed state tobacco excise tax increases in the last four years. And the momentum continues: This past weekend, Alaska joined the movement by passing legislation to raise the excise tax on tobacco products by 71 cents, which, combined with the current 29 cent state tax, has made Alaska the first state with a $1 a pack tobacco tax. We applaud this historic victory. Today Common Cause released a report detailing the tobacco industry’s political contributions -- contributions they hope will buy them special favors with Congress. It’s time for Congress to say "no" to Big Tobacco. Passing an increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco will send a signal that Congress stands with America’s children, and not with the tobacco companies.

 

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