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House Ways & Means Committee Takes Big Step to Protect Kids By Approving Increase in Federal Cigarette Tax

By William V. Corr, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 27, 2007

Washington, DC — The U.S. House Ways & Means Committee has taken an important step to protect the health of America’s children and save lives by approving legislation to increase the federal cigarette tax by 45 cents a pack to help fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). It is great news for America’s health that both houses of Congress are moving toward approving a significant increase in the federal cigarette tax, which will prevent kids from starting to smoke and encourage smokers to quit. The Senate Finance Committee has approved a 61-cent cigarette tax increase in its version of the SCHIP legislation. The higher the cigarette tax Congress approves, the greater the benefit in reducing smoking and improving health.

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 reduce tobacco-caused health care costs, 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.

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 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.