The US Senate passed a bill that extends healthcare coverage to 4 million children and the bill met with overwhelming approval of the US House of Representatives today.  Passage in both chambers of Congress allows President Barack Obama to sign it into law.  To cover the expense of the extended healthcare coverage to children, smokers will pay a hefty increase of the federal tax on cigarettes.

This expanded healthcare coverage is part of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), begun in the 1990s to provide healthcare coverage to children in families too poor to afford private healthcare insurance but earning more money than allowed under the Medicaid program.  About 7 million children are currently enrolled in the program.

Passage of the bill comes with a price tag of $32.8 billion.  To help cover that federal expense, the federal excise tax for cigarettes is going up from 62 cents per pack to $1.01 per pack.