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 calls for the following actions to be taken by Indiana elected officials:
- Raise the cigarette excise tax by $2.00 per pack;
- Restore funding for tobacco education and cessation programs; and
- Pass a comprehensive smokefree air law that covers bars, clubs, and gaming venues.
In 2018, the bill supported by our coalition made a strong statement by proposing a $2.00 addition to the cigarette tax, plus an increase in the legal tobacco sales age from 18 to 21. The bill passed unanimously from the House Public Health Committee and was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee for further consideration. Unfortunately, it did not advance any further. Notably in 2018, Indiana gained the dubious distinction of having the lowest cigarette tax in the region after Kentucky's legislature raised that state's tax rate. The urgency for action on this issue in Indiana continues to rise.
At the municipal level, support continues to grow for smokefree public spaces. Austin and North Manchester enacted comprehensive smokefree air laws that included bars, clubs, and e-cigarettes. Zionsville updated its comprehensive smokefree air policy to become completely tobacco-free, including e-cigarettes. Several other cities and towns expanded smokefree public spaces like parks and adopted restrictions on e-cigarettes: Seymour, North Vernon, Lafayette, Fishers, and Goshen. Lawmakers have not seriously considered stronger secondhand smoke protections at the state level since passing a weak law in 2012.
An independent study released from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation in 2018 analyzed Indiana's tobacco control program. Among the report's key findings: the State's tobacco control program, once a national leader, is now "woefully underfunded" and lags behind other states due to years of declining investment. Even after a $2.5 million increase in the program's budget appropriation in 2017, Indiana spends less than half the national average per capita. Fortunately, polling shows strong support for a higher cigarette tax among Hoosiers.
2019 will be an important year for tobacco control in the Indiana legislature. As the biennial state budget bill is negotiated, the American Lung Association in Indiana will continue to advocate for a significant increase in the cigarette tax. Raising the cigarette tax will lower smoking rates and generate funding for life-saving health programs. Legislators have an opportunity to once again make Indiana a leader in the fight against tobacco