With the influence of Big Tobacco on the wane, Congress is poised to strike, the AP says. House and Senate negotiators continue work on a plan calling for a hefty federal tax hike on cigarettes, and several other anti-smoking initiatives are in the pipeline. Meanwhile, the once-powerful lobbying arm of the industry remains largely silent, the AP notes.
Congress wants to raise the per-pack tax on cigarettes from 61 cents to $1, a proposal tied to funding for children's health insurance. Bush is against the increase, but lawmakers think they can work it into the insurance bill in a veto-proof way. Not surprisingly, Big Tobacco is opposed, too, but "the industry has tried to do things more quietly, largely because they obviously know how popular a tobacco tax is," says a health advocate.