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Senator Gordon Smith's Proposal to Increase Federal Cigarette Tax Would Protect America's Kids

Statement of American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 27, 2007

Washington, DC — We applaud U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) for urging Congress to increase the federal cigarette tax to reduce youth smoking and help fund the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The U.S. Senate today voted 59-40 in support of Senator Smith's amendment to the budget resolution that puts the Senate on record as supporting an increase in the cigarette tax to help fund the SCHIP program. This is an important first step toward enactment of legislation to increase the federal cigarette tax for the first time since 1997.

The evidence is clear that increasing the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, 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 higher cigarette tax is a win-win-win solution for our country - a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that will raise much-needed revenue to fund important programs while also reducing tobacco-caused health care costs, and a political win that is popular with the voters.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 400,000 lives each year and costing over $96 billion annually in health care bills. In addition, 23 percent of high school students currently smoke, and more than 4,000 kids start smoking each day.

The current federal cigarette tax rate is 39 cents per pack. Congress has not enacted legislation increasing the federal cigarette tax since the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (which phased in a 15-cent increase in 2000 and 2002). As a result, after adjusting for inflation, the federal cigarette tax is currently lower than historical levels and much lower as a percentage of overall cigarette prices. A significant increase in the federal cigarette tax would be an important step in reducing tobacco's terrible toll.