Raising Smart, Healthy Kids in Kentucky

State_Infographic_KYRecently a report called, Raising Smart, Healthy Kids in Every State was released, which discussed greatly expanding early childhood initiatives throughout the United States, including Kentucky. This report was produced through the collaboration of 9 national organizations that focus on early learning or public health. It contains information about how every state could benefit from supporting an increase in the federal cigarette tax in order to increase the availability of funding that supports an expansion of quality preschool education nationally.

High quality early education is essential for children to have the best opportunity for success. Children from birth to age four benefit significantly from early childhood education that helps prepare children for kindergarten. Numerous studies show that high quality early education lends itself to better performance on cognitive tests in elementary and secondary school, an increased likelihood of graduating from high school, attending college and getting a job as well as being in better physical health. Unfortunately, there are many children in Kentucky that do not currently have access to preschool or other early childhood educational programs. A large majority of those are children living in low-income families.

The other side of the coin, the increase in the tobacco tax, has broad reaching positive outcomes that extend past an increase in revenue. It has been shown in numerous studies throughout the United States that an increase in cigarette taxes are one of the most effective ways to sharply reduce smoking, especially among youth, pregnant women, and adults with low-incomes  Not only does the reduction of smoking among these groups have positive long term effects on their individual health, but it also helps decrease the amount of funding spent on tobacco-related health care costs.

The relationship between education and health is strong and leads to many benefits. Increasing knowledge and cognitive skills impact educational attainment which leads to better jobs. Educational attainment can also affect social and psychological factors like sense of control, social standing and social support which all improve health. All of these benefits lead to a healthier and stronger families.

As Kentucky has recently seen significant set-backs in access to early childhood education and child care with the recent cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program as well as cuts to Head Start, proposals that increase investments in early child care education without adding to the deficit is a priority.

The report outlines the projected benefits in Kentucky from a federal cigarette tax increase by 94 cents. This would provide an additional $41.3 million in Kentucky for. The cigarette tax would help increase support for voluntary home visiting programs, like HANDS, by $7.9 million. Not only would children benefit in the short-term, the increase would prevent over 40,000 children from becoming addicted adult smokers in the future. Also, a projected 38,500 adults would quit smoking within the first year of the increased cigarette tax.

Increasing the number of children that have access to high quality early education and decreasing the number of individuals that use tobacco will our state in multiple ways. It will improve the education and health of children in Kentucky while saving taxpayer dollars on tobacco-related health costs. This is a win-win scenario.

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