The Garden City Telegram
9/29/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Smoke tax

Reasonable federal proposal would help boost education.

Under a federal plan, cigarette smokers would help fuel a program to help young children.

The proposal would expand early childhood education through a hefty hike in the federal tobacco tax — a 94-cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax and a proportional increase in the tax on other tobacco products.

A new report, "Raising Smart, Healthy Kids in Every State" (available at smarthealthykids.org), details educational and health benefits of the proposal — one designed to give more children access to early education that helps build a strong foundation.

Nationwide, the plan would fund high-quality preschool for an estimated 2 million children in low- and moderate-income families. More than 3,800 Kansas children in the Sunflower State could benefit in the first year alone, thanks to $31.3 million in new funding.

Another plus of the proposed cigarette tax would be in deterring tobacco use that kills more than 400,000 Americans every year and costs the nation $96 billion in health care bills. An estimated 11,500 Kansans could be saved from premature, smoking-caused deaths.

The plan also would prevent an estimated 1.7 million youngsters in the nation from smoking. Some 21,000 children in Kansas alone could be prevented from becoming addicted smokers.

Considering every day more than 3,500 of the nation's youth try their first cigarette, the plan to expand early childhood education and fund it with an increase in federal tobacco taxes would be a welcome deterrent.

When cigarettes go up in price, smokers often cut back. Younger would-be smokers have even more trouble affording such an expense.

Of course, everyone still would be free to buy and use tobacco. But those who do should acknowledge the painful toll to all — smokers and nonsmokers — in illnesses and related costs of their desire to light up.

The potential for saving lives — as well as lowering health-care costs and discouraging an unhealthy habit — should be reason enough to support the new tobacco tax plan.

Knowing the move also would raise funds needed to give more youngsters a solid educational start makes the federal proposal all the more sensible and worthy of support.