A rally to raise Indiana’s per-pack cigarette tax was held at the Statehouse Wednesday.
The House budget included a $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase, to help cover a funding shift to pay for roads. The Senate got rid of that road funding shift and eliminated the tax hike.
Health advocacy groups gathered at the statehouse to urge lawmakers to treat the cigarette tax as a funding issue and a health issue.
Director of tobacco control and advocacy with the American Lung Association, Monique French, says raising the tax is a win-win.
“When we increase the cigarette tax, we save lives, we prevent kids from picking up the habit and then the bonus is getting that additional revenue,” French says.
More than one million Hoosiers smoke. Indiana ranks 39th worst in the country for its smoking rate. French says Indiana can’t wait.
“If we wait until 2019 that’s 22,000 individuals who will die from tobacco use that we could have done something about,” says French.
It’s been 10 years since the cigarette tax was increased.
Bryan Hannon with the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network says there’s still time to get this done.
“Knowing how those negotiations work we know there is still time for lawmakers to do the right thing this year,” Hannon says.
The budget will be finalized over the few weeks.