Rochelle Stidham

Call it a sign of the times.

Remember when we still had black and white TV and we watched the ďEd Sullivan Show?Ē If my mind serves me correctly, Ed used to smoke on TV or maybe it was Dean Martin. Ditto for the old black and white movies where it was common for actors and actresses to smoke on camera.

Today, however, smoking is rarely seen on TV. The health risks associated with smoking are well known and the habit is no longer portrayed as glamorous or sophisticated.

Cigarette smokers these days arenít always warmly embraced.

If youíre a smoker than you already know this and you are probably well aware of what might happen on January 1.

If Congress gets its way, an additional 61-cent tax will be added to packs of cigarettes. With cigarettes hovering around $5 per pack, the increase could force those people who want to quit, to really do so.

The irony of the proposed tax increase, if passed through Congress, is that revenue it generates will go to the State Childrenís Health Insurance Program, which provides insurance to kids living in low-income working families.

But hereís the kicker. In order to fund the insurance program, Congress wants to raise the tax - but, according to opponents of the measure, 22.4 million people in the next decade will have to take up smoking to keep the program going. Think about it; if 50 percent of the people who are smoking stop smoking then the SCHI Program will no longer be able to care for children anymore.

Strange, donít you think?

I myself do not like smoking. I donít like the smell of it in a building, on my clothes, at a restaurant or in a car. Studies have also shown that second hand smoke can be dangerous to the public. Some cities are even writing ordinances to keep smokers out of public places like restaurants, lounges and airports.

With this new tax proposal it seems that Congress is finding new ways to punish smokers by hitting them hard where it counts - in the pocketbook. According to a report entitled, Higher Cigarette Taxes Reduce Smoking and Saves Lives and Money, cigarette taxes are one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking in people of all ages.

The report also states that every state that has raised cigarette taxes has benefited from the increased revenue, while reducing smoking.

Not a bad plan especially if uninsured children of Texas can benefit.