Wednesday September 25, 2013
Our children face two major challenges in America today: Too many children lack access to high-quality early education that can give them a strong start in life, and too many kids still smoke, which puts them on a path to serious disease and premature death. In his budget earlier this year, President Obama proposed a common-sense plan to simultaneously reverse both of these trends, and today, ACS CAN and eight other groups focused on early education and tobacco control released a report touting the significant benefits of this plan.
The president’s proposal would expand early childhood education across the country with a 94-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax and equivalent tax increases on other tobacco products. The state-by-state report, Raising Smart, Healthy Kids in Every State, shows that the proposal would prevent 1.7 million kids nationwide from becoming addicted smokers and enable nearly 335,000 additional children from low- and moderate-income families to be enrolled in high-quality preschool programs. It’s a win-win for our nation’s youth.
The health benefits of the president’s proposal are significant. While we have made big strides in reducing the smoking rate in this country, it is still the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. Even more disturbing – the addiction almost always starts at a young age. Fully 90 percent of adult smokers began at or before age 18. About 18 percent of high school students in the U.S. still smoke, and more than 3,500 kids try their first cigarette each day.
The problem is huge, but we know how to solve it. Evidence has shown time and time again that the most effective way to reduce smoking is to raise the price of cigarettes through tobacco tax increases. It’s pretty simple – when tobacco prices go up, tobacco use goes down. Fewer kids start smoking, and more smokers are motivated to quit. According to today’s report, this tobacco tax increase would save nearly 1 million lives by preventing premature deaths from smoking. It would also save $63.4 billion in long-term health care costs related to tobacco use. It saves lives and it saves money.
We have a real opportunity in front of us to give children the opportunity for a strong start in life and to help them become healthier, productive adults. Our groups are releasing this report now because Congress is making important budget decisions in the coming weeks. This report makes a compelling case for Congress to support an initiative to expand early childhood education by funding it with a tobacco tax, an initiative that pays for itself and does not add a cent to the deficit. Also, by reducing smoking, this initiative can help save money by reducing health care costs that stem from tobacco use.
Raising Smart, Healthy Kids in Every State is more than a report title – it should be a national priority, and one we hope all members of Congress can support.