Cigarette Tax Plan Called One of “Three Best Ideas in Obama’s Budget”

April 12, 2013


Earlier this week, President Obama presented his 2014 budget, which proposes to fund early childhood education initiatives by increasing the federal cigarette tax by 94 cents per pack and similarly increasing taxes on other tobacco products.

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog called this proposal one of the “three best ideas in Obama’s budget.”

In addition to raising billions for early childhood education, a tobacco tax increase is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids.  As Wonkblog notes, “the beauty of the approach is that the tobacco tax also accomplishes an important goal. Namely:  ‘Researchers have found that raising taxes on cigarettes significantly reduces consumption, with especially large effects on youth smoking.’”

Wonkblog also counters arguments – often made by tobacco companies – that the tobacco tax is regressive because lower-income people smoke at higher rates.   As Wonkblog notes, a higher tobacco tax will actually reduce the regressive harms and costs of smoking.  The higher tobacco tax “will mean fewer lower-income folks become addicted or remain addicted to cigarettes.”  The tax will have “two very progressive benefits: Less cigarette addiction and near-universal pre-K.”

That industry argument, by the way, is essentially an admission by tobacco companies that their deadly products are disproportionately used by and harm lower-income populations.   They clearly don’t have the same concern for poor people’s lives that they claim to have for their taxes.

In speaking about the budget, President Obama said his proposal would raise “taxes on tobacco products that harm our young people,” calling it “the right thing to do.”

We couldn’t agree more. This proposal would have as great an impact in reducing tobacco use among kids as any action the federal government has taken. It would be a giant step toward winning the fight against tobacco, the nation's number one cause of preventable death.

Read our statement on the President’s proposal.


(Photo: Official White House photo from the 2013 State of the Union Address)