Federal lawmakers were called upon last month to fund an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program by approving a tobacco tax increase of 61 cents; the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, along with 65 other organizations, made the request.
In a joint letter, the groups said that reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is “one of the most important tasks before Congress this year.”
They noted that SCHIP has significantly improved low-income children's access to care.
“By discouraging smoking through an increase in the tobacco tax and using the resulting revenues to improve enrollment in children's health insurance programs, we are creating a win-win proposition in support of our children's health,” the groups said in the joint letter.
“It will also result in long-term savings as children become healthier and more productive members of society,” the letter explained.
Congress has set aside $50 billion in new federal funds over the next 5 years for use in SCHIP, which is scheduled to be reauthorized this year.
However, under new “pay-as-you-go” rules, the $50 billion only will be available for SCHIP if Congress cuts other programs or approves new taxes to raise new revenue.
Raising the tobacco tax to provide more funding for SCHIP would help cover many of the 8 million to 9 million uninsured children in the United States while also helping to reduce youth smoking, which would help save health costs down the road, the groups said in the letter, which was presented to congressional leaders.
“Studies show that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by 7% and overall cigarette consumption by 4%,” the groups wrote.
“Increasing the tobacco tax will also generate hundreds of millions of dollars in health care savings because fewer smokers means fewer people with strokes, heart attacks, cancer, and other smoking-related health conditions,” the joint letter asserted.
The groups included the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Physicians, along with the advocacy group Families USA.