Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Indiana. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Indiana calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Raise the cigarette excise tax by at least a $1.50 per pack;
- Pass a comprehensive smokefree air law that covers bars, taverns and casinos; and
- Raise the legal age to sell tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The American Lung Association in Indiana fought for effective tobacco control policies during the 2017 legislative session. The Lung Association also partnered with Tobacco Free Indiana and the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana to advocate for our joint campaign "Raise It for Health". This campaign aimed to increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack, raise the legal age to sell tobacco products from 18 to 21 and increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs from $5 million to $35 million annually. The momentum grew due to the foundation of attempts from prior years and the inclusion of a new health business coalition focused on similar goals.
In 2017, the Raise It for Health campaign had legislation pass out of the House of Representatives to increase the cigarette tax by a $1.00 per pack and increase funding to tobacco prevention and cessation programs by $2.5 million per year. Unfortunately, the efforts to increase the cigarette tax were unsuccessful due to the lack of support from the state Senate. However, our efforts lead to a 50 percent increase in funding for tobacco prevention and cessation.
On a more positive note, smokefree efforts in Indiana have been building momentum at the local level. Indiana saw success when Kokomo and Howard County passed strong comprehensive smokefree air ordinances in Indiana which will protect over 80,000 residents and workers. Speedway passed a smokefree parks policy and the Indiana Motor Speedway is implementing a smokefree policy for their race track. The Lung Association in Indiana was instrumental in helping bring about these policy changes.
A recent poll conducted by one of our partners found strong support for a smokefree air law in Lake County, which includes the city of Gary. Seventy-three percent saw secondhand smoke as a health hazard, and 65 percent would support a smokefree air ordinance. About half of respondents frequent the local casinos yet 72 percent believed it is the right of customers and employees to breathe clean air in bars and casinos and 84 percent believed that casino workers should be protected from exposure to secondhand smoke.
The American Lung Association in Indiana looks forward to an active 2018 legislative session as we continue to partner with Tobacco Free Indiana in advocating for a $1.50 increase in Indiana's cigarette tax and additional funding for Indiana's tobacco control program while exploring raising the legal age to sell tobacco products from 18 to 21. The Lung Association will also look for additional opportunities to strengthen Indiana's smokefree laws at the local level in 2018.