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Bill to raise smoking age passes in Indiana House

Legislators on Monday, January 29 voted 9-0 to pass Bill 1380, which would raise the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 years old.

The bill’s author, Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown, also sought to increase Indiana’s $1 per pack cigarette tax to $3, but that was stripped out by the committee.

“Today, the state of Indiana took the first step in passing legislation that would protect young people from beginning a lifetime of addiction and ultimately save their lives. In addition to dramatically increasing public health, this proposed legislation would save millions in health care costs in the state of Indiana,” said Monique French, Director of Tobacco Control and Advocacy for the American Lung Association.

The Raise It for Health campaign joined 25 leading Indiana health and business organizations to call for an increase in the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack, which would immediately help 50,000 adults quit smoking and prevent 40,000 kids from ever starting.

Representatives from each organization signed a letter to state lawmakers expressing their support for the increased tax. The signatories include members of Tobacco Free Indiana and the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana as well as a number of other supporting organizations, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Hospital Association, the Indiana Rural Health Association, the Indiana State Medical Association and the Indy Chamber.

Tobacco Free Indiana is a state-wide coalition that promotes proven strategies to help smokers quit, prevent youth from starting and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.

“Tobacco remains Indiana’s deadliest addiction, claiming the lives of more than 11,000 Hoosiers every year,” said Bryan Hannon, chair of Tobacco Free Indiana and Raise It for Health. “Policymakers must get engaged in the fight against tobacco if we’re going to successfully drive down smoking rates in Indiana, and an increase of at least $1.50 in the cigarette tax is the surest way to do it.”

The Alliance for a Healthier Indiana is a coalition of health care professionals, advocates, and community and business leaders from across Indiana who are committed to improving the state’s health. Indiana ranks 38th out of the 50 states in overall health, and the state’s smoking rate of 21 percent is the 41st worst in the nation.

“A healthy workforce is essential to a healthy economy,” said Bryan Mills, chair of the Alliance and president and CEO of Community Health Network. “Reducing the high rate of smoking has to be our top priority. Our low health rankings exact a significant toll on our economy and rob us of potential opportunities in the form of investments, jobs and income. We must take action now to not only improve the health of Hoosiers, but also keep the Indiana economy growing and thriving.”

The letter to lawmakers was delivered on Monday to key House and Senate leadership before the House Committee on Public Health considered legislation to increase the cigarette tax and raise the legal age of purchase to 21.

Indiana’s tax rate of 99.5 cents per pack is below the national average and that of nearly all neighboring states. Pointing to data from the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the letter states that with the passage of a $1.50 increase, 50,000 Hoosier adults would quit smoking and 40,000 kids would never start. Indiana would also see 10,000 fewer smoking-impacted births over five years.

Signatories called for urgent action. “We cannot sit by while 11,000 Hoosiers die each year and our economy suffers. Increasing the cigarette tax will do more than any other policy to help our state make the shift to a healthier and more productive future for all Hoosiers,” the letter states.

The letter highlights some of the negative economic impacts of Indiana’s high smoking rate. Smoking costs Indiana more than $7 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity. Each smoker costs his or her employer $22 a day in extra business costs, or $5,800 per year.

“As we invest in upskilling our workforce, we also need to invest in their health to continue our momentum as a world-class region,” said Michael Huber, president and CEO of the Indy Chamber, which represents more than 1,800 businesses across the Indianapolis region.

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