The state legislature will consider a law to curb Indiana’s smoking rate, which is one of the highest in the nation. The proposed bill would raise the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack, among other measures.
More than 11,000 adults die each year from smoking in the state. Nearly one in four adults smoke. But the state also has a low cigarette tax — 99.5 cents per pack — and research shows if people pay more per pack, they’ll be more likely to quit, or less likely to start in the first place.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, a Republican from Indianapolis, says a few bills have been proposed this session to raise the tax, but that her bill goes further.
“The one I have is a package,” she says. In addition to raising the tax , the bill would change the smoking age to 21, to curb youth smoking. It’s important to keep young people from smoking, she says, because, “it will give the brain more of an opportunity to fully grow and to avoid addiction in the long run.”
The bill also appropriates $35 million for tobacco prevention and cessation initiatives. Currently, the state spends $5.9 million on prevention and cessation efforts, with another $2.2 million in federal funding. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the state spend $73.5 million in order to bring the smoking rate down.
“We’re starting from behind the curve,” says Stephen Jay, a professor at the IUPUI’s Fairbanks School of Public Health who specializes in tobacco research. “So it would make sense that we do more in Indiana, not less.”
Similar efforts to raise the tax have failed in past sessions, but proponents are hopeful that the measure can get through the legislature this year.