As Congress works to expand health insurance coverage to millions of additional American children, Virginia's two U.S. senators registered their opposition to plans to pay for the expansion with an increase in the tobacco tax.
Republican Sen. John Warner and Democratic Sen. Jim Webb both said they could not support increasing a tax that they said is paid disproportionately by the poor.
``I have consistently supported increasing health insurance coverage for children and pregnant mothers from low-income families," Warner said. ``However, I am concerned about relying solely on revenues from new tobacco taxes, which are especially regressive in targeting those citizens who can least afford higher fees."
Webb spokeswoman Jessica Smith said a tax increase on cigarettes ``is both unfair and regressive." About half of the nation's smokers, she said, come from the same families that would be eligible for expanded government insurance coverage.
Webb `` is examining other sources of revenue and is considering a possible amendment to the bill," Smith said.
No word on whether the senators were influenced by cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA, which is headquartered in Richmond.