Congress Should Redouble Efforts to Increase Federal Cigarette Tax

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Oct. 18 2007

Washington, D.C. — It is disappointing that the U.S. House of Representatives today fell just short of overriding President Bush’s veto of legislation to increase the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents per pack to help fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). With his veto, the President let down America’s children and protected the interests of the tobacco industry. However, we are encouraged by the strong, bipartisan support in both the House and Senate for increasing the tobacco tax to fund the SCHIP program and urge Congress to redouble efforts to pass a significant cigarette tax increase this year. The higher the cigarette tax, the greater the benefit in reducing smoking and improving health.

A higher cigarette tax is a win-win-win solution for the country – a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that will raise revenue to help fund the SCHIP program and reduce tobacco-caused health care costs, and a political win that is popular with voters. A recent poll conducted for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found that 67 percent of voters support a 75-cent per pack increase in the federal cigarette tax to provide health coverage to uninsured children, while only 28 percent oppose it.

Increasing the cigarette tax is a proven strategy to reduce smoking, especially among children. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. A 61-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax will prevent almost 1.9 million kids from becoming regular smokers, help almost 1.2 million adult smokers quit, prevent more than 900,000 smoking-caused deaths and produce $43.9 billion in long-term health care savings.

Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people in the United States each year and costs more than $96 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, about 23 percent of high school students smoke and more than 1,000 kids become new regular smokers every day.

The national poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted by the Mellman Group May 29- June 3, 2007 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Detailed poll results can be found online.

 

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