On February 4, President Obama signed new State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation that will preserve health coverage for 6.7 million children and extend coverage to 4.1 million more. Importantly, SCHIP's expansion is being financed with a 62-cent increase in the federal tax on cigarettes. The 62-cent increase (taking the total federal tax to just over $1 per pack) will lead to nearly two million fewer kids starting to smoke, help more than one million adult smokers quit, prevent nearly 900,000 smoking-caused deaths and produce $44.5 billion in long-term health care savings by reducing tobacco-caused health care costs.
RWJF grantee the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that the increase in the federal tobacco tax will result in numerous public health benefits, including increasing the total number of kids alive today who will not become smokers by 1,992,000 and increasing the number of current adult smokers in the U.S. who will quit by 1,020,000.
Higher tobacco taxes, whether federal or state, are 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, as well as important health and health care programs in states and reduce tobacco-caused health care costs, and a political win that is popular with voters. Polling conducted for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found that more than two-thirds of all voters support a significant increase in the federal cigarette tax to provide health care coverage to uninsured children. State polling supported by the Foundation shows that a majority of the public support tobacco tax increases as a way to prevent youth smoking and help smokers quit.
Each year in the United States, tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people and costs the nation $96 billion in health care bills. Tobacco tax increases, implementing comprehensive smoke-free laws, public education programs and media campaigns on the dangers of tobacco and cessation programs to help smokers quit are proven strategies that must be part of a national effort to reduce tobacco use.
View RWJF-funded ad campaign materials in support of tobacco tax increases, below.