INDIANAPOLIS — A statewide coalition of 139 health, business, youth and community groups is asking the General Assembly to hike Indiana's cigarette tax by $2 per pack.
Raise It For Health contends that tripling the state's cigarette tax, which currently is 99.5 cents per pack, will significantly reduce smoking rates and generate up to $350 million a year in new revenue that could be used to tackle other Hoosier health issues, such as drug addiction and infant mortality.
"Eleven thousand Hoosiers die every year from smoking, and almost every health issue in the state can be linked back to smoking," said Bryan Mills, CEO of Community Health Network and chairman of the Alliance for a Healthy Indiana.
The coalition claims the poor health of Hoosiers is a drag on the state's economy, and smoking, in particular, costs the state more than $7.6 billion a year in health care expenses, productivity losses and premature death.
"Tobacco has a devastating impact on Indiana's workforce and Indiana's businesses," said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
"If Indiana wants to be a state that works, it can't afford to be a state that smokes."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 5 Hoosier adults smoke cigarettes, as do 11.2 percent of Indiana high school students — both above the national average.
If Indiana's smoking rates don't change, the coalition said more than 150,000 children under age 18 who are alive today ultimately will die from smoking-related causes.
"Seven out of 10 Hoosiers support a common-sense cigarette tax increase," said Bryan Hannon, chairman of Raise It For Health. "Policymakers need to join the fight against tobacco if we're going to cut smoking in Indiana."
Prior efforts to boost the cigarette tax by $1 per pack repeatedly have failed in the Republican-controlled Legislature, amid concerns about infringing on personal liberty and harming state-line businesses that sell cigarettes to customers from adjacent high-tax states, like Illinois.
Though even a $2.995 Indiana cigarette tax still would be considerably less than the $6.16 in taxes levied on each pack of cigarettes sold in Chicago.