American Lung Association Celebrates Public Health Victory

President Obama Signs Children’s Health Insurance and Federal Tobacco Tax Increase Into Law

(February 4, 2009)

Statement of Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO:

Earlier this year, the American Lung Association expressed hope that the Obama Administration would prioritize tobacco control and public health. Today, we finally are celebrating a long fought public health victory—a victory that will improve health, increase children’s health care coverage and reduce smoking.

We commend President Obama for signing into law a federal cigarette tax increase of 62-cents bringing the total federal cigarette tax to: $1.01 per pack. Revenue from this tax will be used to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides much-needed medical care for our nation’s low-income, uninsured children.

As an organization dedicated to improving lung health and preventing lung disease, we are especially grateful for this bipartisan victory that will provide an additional 4 million uninsured children with needed medical care. Studies show that children with asthma who were enrolled in CHIP had fewer asthma attacks and needed fewer medical visits.

Importantly, this substantial increase in the federal cigarette tax will help curb youth smoking rates. Each ten percent increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about seven percent. This legislation also wisely increases taxes on other tobacco products to encourage smokers to quit tobacco use and not simply switch to other less expensive products. 

Considering half of all smokers will die prematurely from their addiction, increasing the federal cigarette tax will go a long to save young lives and is also good for our economy. Preventing lung disease through access to quality health care while also preventing kids from starting to smoke, will save our nation billions in the years to come.