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Hoosier Employers Want to Curb Smoking Rates

Advocates say if Hoosiers have to pay more to smoke, they're more likely to quit. (
Advocates say if Hoosiers have to pay more to smoke, they're more likely to quit. (
January 22, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers in Indiana are being asked to bump up the tax on cigarettes by $2 a pack this legislative session.

House Bill 1380 is authored by Rep. Charlie Brown of Gary, who says the idea is to make smokers feel, in their wallets, the urgency of quitting a very unhealthy habit.

Bryan Hannon, Indiana government relations director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, says Indiana's tobacco tax is very low compared with most other states, and yet the smoking rate is well above average.

Hannon says not only is smoking a deadly habit, it's costing taxpayers and businesses a lot of money.

"Smoking rates in Indiana are a big concern for employers,” he states. “They're concerned about how unhealthy their workforce is, how their health care costs are being driven up by an abundance of smokers in the state, and so they are supportive of any efforts state policymakers can take to help drive down the smoking rates."

Hannon says each smoker increases employer health care costs by $22 a day, and adds that with more than 20 percent of Indiana's workforce smoking, that adds up to a lot of money being lost every year.

According to Hannon, it's not just about economics. The health of all Hoosiers is at stake.

"People who are enrolled in Medicaid smoke at a higher rate than the rest of the population, so that's a big cost to the taxpayers via the Medicaid program,” he points out. “We have a lot of pregnancies that are affected by smoking. Indiana's smoking-while-pregnant rate is much higher, almost double the national average."

According to America's Health Rankings 2017 Report, Indiana ranks 41st worst in the nation for percentage of smokers.

Smoking costs Indiana $5.4 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN