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Children's Medical Insurance to be Paid by Smokers?

By Debra Myers     Jul 8, 2007 in Health
In the United States, there are at least 45 million smokers. Now, taxed as these smokers are, Democrats are pushing for an increase in taxes on tobacco products to fund the "State Children's Health Insurance Program".
Democratic lawmakers will push for $50 billion in new funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program over the next five years. To pay for that increase, they must find new sources of revenue or cut existing programs. Smokers have been taxed and taxed, and this time it won't be about "if" it goes up, but rather "how much" it will go up. "I've every reason to believe an increase in the tobacco tax will be part of the way expanded health insurance for children is paid for," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an advocacy group that promotes universal health insurance. As it stands now, the federal tax on a pack of smokes is 39 cents. In 2005, this tax generated 7.2 billion dollars, which was placed in a general fund within the U.S. Treasury.
Each state also places tax on cigarettes, and the rates vary from state to state. New Jersey charges $2.58 tax on each pack of cigarettes, while South Carolina charges a paltry 7 cents per pack.
Of course, tobacco companies are opposing this additional tax, "but it is unclear whether the industry has enough clout to fend this one off. The ban on unlimited contributions to the political parties, called soft money, has resulted in a significant drop-off in campaign contributions from the industry."I was surprised to learn: "The Center for Responsive Politics reports that total campaign contributions from the tobacco industry fell from $9.2 million in the 2002 election cycle to $3.5 million in last year's cycle. The center also ranks industries when it comes to campaign contributions; since 1996, tobacco has fallen from 26th in the center's rankings to 62nd.
Most of the industry's contributions in recent elections — about three quarters — have gone to Republicans."
The upside of this issue could have two positive things happen:
1.] more revenue for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and
2.] that this would push a lot more smokers to quit, thus reducing smoking-related medical problems and death.
As for the downside: Bill Phelps, spokesman for Philip Morris USA, the largest U.S. tobacco company, feels that "Relying on the cigarette excise tax to fund an important government program such as SCHIP will create long-term funding shortfalls." Each year, 440,000 people die within the US as a result of illnesses that are attributed to cigarette smoking.
This might be one way to reduce this number. Personally, I would much rather see this money go towards a program that would benefit uninsured children, than to see it go to funding a Presidential campaigns.
More about Smokers, Medical insurance, Children
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