American voters say they would back a 30 cent to 75 cent per-pack increase to the federal cigarette tax to help defray the costs of extending and expanding childrens health insurance coverage, according to a new survey by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Tom Nickels, senior vice president of federal relations for the American Hospital Association, said that healthcare providers routinely see the negative effects smoking has on patients while also seeing the positive impact that the State Childrens Health Insurance Program has. Healthy kids turn into healthy adults, he said.
The provider and health insurance communities have said that they want federal lawmakers to raise the tobacco tax in order to fund the lions share of legislation that will reauthorize and expand SCHIP. Earlier estimates by the Congressional Budget Office show that an increase of 50 cents on the federal tobacco tax would generate about $4.3 billion in additional revenue in 2008, and $26.6 billion over five years. SCHIP is set to expire Sept. 30. Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for an additional $50 billion over five years for SCHIP.
The survey was released just one day after the HHS cited new, lower estimates on how many children are eligible to enroll in the program. The study conducted by the Urban Institutes Income and Benefits Policy Center backs an administration proposal to target an appropriate amount of funding for SCHIPs original target audiencelow-income children at or below 200% the federal poverty level. But Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, assailed the HHS report, calling it politically motivated.
The Senate is expected to consider SCHIP reauthorization in the coming weeks. -- by Matthew DoBias