MISSOULA, Mont. -

Health care and education groups are backing a plan to expand children's education funding by boosting federal tobacco taxes.

President Obama's plan for a 94-cent hike on cigarettes gets a cold shoulder form tobacco users and sellers. But not from health and education advocates who held a press conference in Missoula.

The YMCA, the American Cancer Society, and Childcare Resources, showcased their support of Obama's tobacco tax at a YMCA preschool.

Supporters of the tax  said it would open doors for some 1,500 more preschool and early Head Start slots for Montana kids.

There would be more home visits to help parents and their children.

The American Cancer Society said 90 percent of adult smokers began smoking before age 18. That's 3,700 Montana youth who could light up for the first time this year.

Advocates want to keep youngsters from ever using tobacco. They said taxes work.

"The last 10 years we've seen a 40 percent reduction in youth use," said Kristin Page-Nei from the American Cancer Society, "In that time we've seen increased taxes at the state level twice and at the federal level once."

Jon Turner is a smoker who has felt those taxes. He said he's paid property taxes, sales taxes and helped kids through college.

"I turn my head in awe," said Turner, "because I can't believe that they want another increase."

"What I'm opposed to is limiting choice," said tobacconist Ivy Taylor.

She's a mom who believes in giving kids a good education. But she points to a can  of Velvet pipe tobacco. It cost $37. Three years ago, said Taylor, it was $28.

"I grew up in a tobacco state," said customer Lillian Patterson. She said "raising cigarette taxes does not prevent smoking."

But many advocates said it does.

The YMCA's Jason Shearer said kids whose families struggle to afford child care will benefit.