Of these, reducing the persistent use of tobacco in America holds tremendous promise for broadly improving public health, protecting young people from harm and reducing health care costs for employers and government insurance programs. That’s why the US House Ways and Means Committee’s intention to double federal tobacco taxes to help pay for part of President Joe Biden’s vast expansion of social programs — a package that is set to include an ambitious extension of health care coverage — is precisely right. While the political drama over revenues needed to pay for a final package remains centered on proposals to make corporations and the wealthy pay more, this should not obscure the importance of a tobacco tax hike. It will raise revenue, reduce tobacco use and, over time, holds the potential to save billions in health care costs. The record is clear that there’s a stunning correlation between increased cigarette prices and reduced consumption over the decades, with federal and state tax hikes on tobacco playing a key role. Due to state laws prohibiting smoking in most public spaces, the full extent of the nation’s continuing addiction to tobacco remains largely out of sight. Yet tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in the United States, resulting in 480,000 deaths every year, according to a 2014 US Surgeon General’s report. Unless there is more rapid progress in reducing tobacco use, the Department of Health and Human Services expects the toll to persist for decades.The cost to families, the health care system and the economy is daunting. According to a 2014 healthcare spending analysis, smoking-related illness in the US costs more than $300 billion each year, which includes more than $225 billion in medical costs and over $156 billion in productivity losses, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Though the surge in e-cigarette use by young people has captured headlines and political attention, adolescents also continue to try traditional cigarettes at alarming rates, with about 2,000 people under 18 smoking a first cigarette every day and about 300 teenagers a day becoming regular, daily smokers, according to 2017 data cited by the CDC.In the decades since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report first sounded the alarm on the overwhelming harms of tobacco, there’s been plenty of time for public health researchers to examine the most effective interventions to help smokers quit — and for policymakers to implement them. Raising tobacco …….

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/04/opinions/tobacco-tax-epidemic-cocco/index.html

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