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Senate Finance Committee Takes Big Step to Protect Kids By Approving Increase in Federal Cigarette Tax

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Director, Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund
July 19, 2007

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has taken an important step to protect the health of America's children and save lives by approving bipartisan legislation to increase the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents a pack in order to fund the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). 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 seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by about four percent.

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 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 care coverage to uninsured children, 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 Independent, men and women, and urban and rural voters supporting the cigarette tax to fund children's health care.

Research shows a clear health benefit from higher tobacco taxes. A 61-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax will prevent almost 1.9 million kids from ever starting to smoke, 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 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, 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