It's no surprise that the tobacco industry is choking on President Barack Obama's budget proposal, part of which would raise the federal cigarette tax by 94 cents a pack to help pay for preschool education.
Among the zingers by company representatives is the claim that it's unfair to aim higher taxes at smokers because they generally have lower incomes than nonsmokers.
If only Big Tobacco were as sensitive to its customers in regard to tobacco-related diseases. The lower median household income of an adult smoker, $27,000 in 2011, is also far less able to cope with the medical bills caused by cigarettes than the $45,761 median income of nonsmokers.
For that reason, a higher tobacco tax would actually be a good thing for low-income smokers by helping them to quit. The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office says that a 50-cent tax increase would push 1.4 million adult smokers to give up cigarettes by 2021. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that the 94-cent increase would keep 1.7 million children from becoming cigarette addicts.
Even apart from enrolling more children into all-important preschool, this proposed tax comes with benefits. The president and Congress should try to get it on the books, regardless of how the rest of the budget develops.