Fox Guest Smokes On-Air, Says Taxing Tobacco To Fund Children’s Health Is Like Racial Discrimination

This Saturday, Fox News’s Cashin’ In did a segment asking whether a bipartisan Senate plan to raise taxes on tobacco products to fund an expansion of the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is “moral.”

Fox News contributor Jonathan Hoenig called the proposal “discrimination,” analogizing it to “all blacks” or “all Christians” having “to pay a surcharge for kids health care.” He also argued that smoking “harms nobody but the smoker,” proceeding to light up a cigarette on-air to prove his point. Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/smokingfoxschip.320.240.flv]

The majority of Americans support taxing cigarettes to finance children’s health care. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reports that “67 percent favor” a 75-cent per pack federal cigarette tax increase ” while only 28 percent oppose it.” Additionally, as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has pointed out, tobacco taxes were used to fund the program when it began a decade ago.

Tobacco taxes have the added benefit of discouraging smoking, which does, despite Hoenig’s rhetoric, harm more than just the smoker. According to the American Association for Respiratory Care, with every 10 percent rise in the cigarette tax, “youth smoking drops by seven percent…and overall cigarette consumption declines by about four percent.”

SCHIP currently insures close to 6 million children and is considered “to be the main explanation” for why “the number of uninsured children has dropped from about 10 million to about 7 million from 1997 to 2006. The current proposal would expand “current levels of spending by $35 billion over the next five years” and “reduce the number of uninsured children by 4.1 million.” Unfortunately, President Bush has promised to veto the Senate legislation, which is being opposed heavily by the tobacco industry.

(HT: News Hounds)

Igor Volsky

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KEENAN: A new push in the Senate to raise taxes on tobacco to pay for health care programs for kids. Well is that a moral thing to do? Let’s get the stock smarts. Our cash it in crew this week, we have the boys on remote: Wayne Rogers, Jonathan Hoenig and Jonas Max Ferris. And joining me here in the studio, Meredith Whitney and Lee Gallagher. Dagen will be back next week. Welcome everybody. Okay Jonathan, are you willing to pay more for a pack of cigarettes so a six year old can have health care? Please say yes.

HOENIG: I, I, am not Terry. In fact, you know, smoking is a legal activity, in fact

KEENAN: Jonathan!

HOENIG: A lot of people actually find it to be a very pleasurable activity and it harms nobody but the smoker, and what’s immoral is to make anybody pay for kids healthcare except for their parents. This is just another example of the nanny state run horribly amuck.

KEENAN: Wayne?

HOENIG: Lucky Strike means good tobacco.

FERRIS: Jonathan, smokers hurt other people. You say it like it’s just themselves, they have the right to smoke. They don’t have the right to raise my health insurance bill because that’s what they’re doing right now. When you go work for a company, that company doesn’t pay a higher health insurance bill because you smoke, that cost is burdened by the nonsmokers. It’s pure communism — you should hate it.

KEENAN: And you know Jonathan, what about second-hand smoke, for all those people in the studio out there? Are you allowed to smoke inside the building?

HOENIG: I think our camera man’s actually smoking too. Terry, the fact is is that smokers have a right to smoke, and if you’re in a bar and somebody is smoking and you don’t like it, leave.

KEENAN: You don’t have a right in New York City. You can’t smoke in a bar here.

HOENIG: People don’t have the right to have frois grais anymore. That doesn’t mean that that’s a moral right either . This would be the same Terry if you said, well, all blacks have to pay a surcharge to pay for kids health care or all Christians. This is discrimination on its face.

KEENAN: Well, Meredith, most people would agree with Jonathan say that you have a choice to smoke or not to smoke.

WHITNEY: I think that everyone would disagree with Jonathan on his last comments.