POOR SMOKERS WOULD PAY FOR HEALTH BILL
October 2, 2007
Congressional Democrats have chosen an unlikely source to pay for the bulk of their proposed $35 billion increase in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP): people with relatively little money and education, says the Associated Press (AP).
- The program expansion passed by the House and Senate would be financed with a 156 percent increase in the federal cigarette tax, taking it to $1 per pack from the current 39 cents.
- Low-income people smoke more heavily than do wealthier people in the United States, making cigarette taxes a regressive form of revenue.
- Nearly one-third of all U.S. adults living in poverty are smokers, compared with 23.5 percent of those above the poverty level, according to government statistics.
The demographics of smoking and taxation received scant attention during House and Senate debates, perhaps because many Democrats and Republicans agree that cigarettes are the best target for tax increase if the insurance program were to grow. A few lawmakers, however, took a swing, says AP.
"I know there is very little sympathy for smokers these days," Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), said during the House debate. "But it is still a tax increase on the backs of the smokers. And in order to get enough money to pay for this, it would require 22 million new smokers."
Source: Charles Babington, "Poor Smokers Would Pay for Health Bill," Associated Press, September 30, 2007.
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