Kids’ Health Debate Tests Clout of Tobacco Industry
Congress is "taking new whacks" at the tobacco industry with its proposed 61-cent increase in the federal tobacco tax to pay for the reauthorization and expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, AP/Long Island Newsday reports. According to the AP/Newsday, although the cigarette industry "is quietly working against" the SCHIP bill, "it lacks the clout it once wielded."
To lobby against the tax increase, Philip Morris USA is sponsoring a Web site, mailings and a toll-free number urging individuals to contact their lawmakers and ask them to sustain President Bush's veto. The company's advertising materials state, "Taxing smokers is unfair." Philip Morris has asked tobacco growers, retailers and wholesalers to contact their lawmakers as well, according to spokesperson Bill Phelps.
Despite the efforts, the proposed tax increase "is not an issue" in the SCHIP negotiations, according to Democratic and Republican leaders, and "both houses have signaled a willingness to raise the cigarette tax if other provisions of a children's health bill can be resolved," according to AP/Newsday.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said that the tobacco industry "has tried to do things more quietly, largely because they obviously know how popular a tobacco tax is" (Babington, AP/Long Island Newsday, 11/10).