WASHINGTON, D.C. -- January 9, 2009 -- Congressional leaders would improve access to quality health care for millions of uninsured children and lower smoking rates by expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) with an increase in the federal cigarette tax. Early action on the program this year also would send the message that Congress is serious about enacting nationwide health care reform.
“Congress should expand this program to provide millions of uninsured children with critical health care coverage, and pay for it with a cigarette tax increase that would encourage millions of people to give up their deadly smoking habit,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph. D., Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “Expanding SCHIP is also part and parcel of a broader effort to improve access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”
Congress twice passed legislation in 2007 to expand SCHIP to cover an additional 4 million children, but President Bush vetoed it both times. The expansion would have been funded by a 61-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax. Raising the tax from the current 39 cents to a total of $1 per pack would prevent more than 900,000 smoking-related deaths and deter nearly 1.9 million U.S. children from becoming lifelong tobacco users. Scientific studies have shown that raising the price of cigarettes by 10 percent reduces youth smoking by an estimated seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by four percent.
ACS CAN supports an even greater increase in the federal tobacco tax in line with the advice of the Bush administration’s 2003 Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health, which recommended raising the tax by $2.00 a pack. Such a significant increase would have a major impact on smoking incidence particularly among young people.
Thousands of ACS CAN volunteers across the country voiced their strong support during the previous debate to expand the SCHIP program and to substantially raise the federal tobacco tax, contacting their elected officials and holding rallies to urge lawmakers to support the bill. Unfortunately, Congress fell narrowly short of overriding the White House veto.
“This is an opportunity for the 111th Congress and the new administration to signal their commitment to public health and overhauling a broken health care system out of the gates,” said Daniel E. Smith, president of ACS CAN. “Taking swift and positive action on this legislation can improve access to care for children and reduce the burden of tobacco for all.”
ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit https://www.fightcancer.org/.
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