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Strong Majority of Voters Nationwide Favor Increase in Federal Cigarette Tax

June 19, 2007

Washington, D.C. — A new national poll finds voters overwhelmingly support a 75-cent per pack federal cigarette tax increase to provide health care coverage to uninsured children. Two-thirds (67 percent) favor such an increase, while only 28 percent oppose it.

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, urban and rural voters supporting the cigarette tax to fund children's health care. The 75-cent increase garners virtually the same level of support as a 30-cent increase (70 percent), but the larger increase would result in significantly larger public health benefits. Research shows a clear public health benefit from tobacco taxes. A 75-cent tax increase will prevent 2.3 million kids from ever starting to smoke, result in 1.4 million adults quitting, prevent 1.1 million smoking-caused deaths, and produce $54 billion in long-term health care savings.

'The cigarette tax is a proven strategy to protect thousands of kids from tobacco addiction,' said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 'A higher cigarette tax is a win-win solution - a health win that will reduce tobacco use and save lives and a financial win that will raise much-needed revenue to fund important programs while also reducing tobacco-caused health care costs.'

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. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have increased their cigarette taxes at least once since January 1, 2002 and the national average state cigarette tax is currently $1.04. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have cigarette tax rates of $1.00 or more and seven states have cigarette tax rates of $2.00 or more.

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 retail cigarette prices.

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

The national survey 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.