Congress Can Protect Kids, Save Lives by Increasing Federal Tobacco Taxes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jan. 13 2009

Washington, D.C. — By increasing the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents, Congress can reduce tobacco use and improve health care for America's children. Congress is considering legislation to fund reauthorization and expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) that would increase the federal cigarette tax from 39 cents to $1 per pack and also increase federal taxes on other tobacco products. To maximize the health and revenue benefits and health care cost savings, we urge the Congress to increase federal taxes on all other tobacco products to parallel rates as the tax on cigarettes.

Increasing tobacco taxes is a proven strategy to reduce smoking and other tobacco use, especially among children. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by about four percent. A 61-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax will prevent nearly two million kids from starting to smoke, help more than one million adult smokers quit, prevent nearly 900,000 smoking-caused deaths and produce $44 billion in long-term health care savings by reducing tobacco-caused health care costs.

Higher tobacco taxes are 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. Polling conducted for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found that more than two-thirds of all voters support a significant increase in the federal cigarette tax to provide health care coverage to uninsured children. This support is evident among virtually every political and demographic subgroup of voters across the country, with large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, men and women, and urban and rural voters supporting the cigarette tax to fund children's health care.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing more than $96 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 20 percent of high school students smoke and more than 1,000 kids become new regular smokers every day.

We urge Congress to pass this important legislation without delay. It will expand health care coverage for America's children while helping to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

 

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