Use tobacco tax to bolster health needs
Regarding Andrew Dys' Wednesday column, "Is risking kids' health really worth the savings?": Well said, Andrew. I, too, cannot see the "common sense" in Gov. Sanford's current stance on SCHIP funding.
I know Dys has described himself in the past as a tobacco smoker. For his own short- and long-term health benefit, I hope he has taken steps since that time to quit smoking permanently.
Why do I mention tobacco smoking in relation to his column?
Children living with asthma and/or a predisposition to ear infections frequently are exposed to indoor or in-the-car, secondhand tobacco smoke. Many of these children are currently covered by either regular Medicaid or SCHIP health insurance in our state.
I think that a meaningful increase in our state's cigarette tax will provide more than enough revenue to directly fund the expansion of SCHIP approved last year for our state's needy low-income families. These new revenues could even be particularly appropriated to specifically cover the costs of illnesses directly related to tobacco-smoke exposureamong all children in South Carolina -- yes, all regular Medicaid, SCHIP, and privately-insured children in South Carolina.
And, a meaningful increase in our state's per-pack cigarette tax -- really an up-front "user fee," not a "tax" -- would have the immediate effect of helping the adult smokers living in current Medicaid-covered and current/expanded SCHIP-covered households to seriously reconsider whether they can afford to continue their own tobacco habit.
These new cigarette tax revenues should also be applied to help all South Carolina tobacco smokers be able to successfully quit and to further expand and sustain our state's wonderful, professional, free-of-charge, toll-free-accessible Tobacco Quit-Line. To reach it, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669), 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week and/or visit the Internet site at www.scdhec.gov/quitforkeeps.
David F. Keely