U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is set to introduce legislation today to close loopholes that allow Big Tobacco to avoid federal excise tax for sales of loose tobacco often used in pipes and roll-your-own cigarettes. The legislation, the Tobacco Tax Equity Act co-sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would establish tobacco tax parity by increasing the federal tax rate for snuff, chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco, large cigars and certain processed tobacco. The bill would also bring states a welcome source of revenue.

Taxing tobacco products is a proven way to reduce smoking rates and discourage people from picking up the deadly habit.  According to the American Cancer Society, every 10 percent increase in the price of tobacco reduces youth smoking rates by 6.5 percent and overall cigarette consumption by 4 percent.

APHA voiced its strong support of the legislation in a letter (PDF) to Durbin last week.

“It is critical that we accelerate our efforts to reduce tobacco use by helping Americans stop smoking and preventing young people from starting to smoke,” wrote Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA.