Group pushes for $2 tax increase on cigarette packs sold in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – If you’re a smoker, you could soon be paying more to light up in Indiana. That could happen if the advocacy group “Raise it for Health” succeeds in pushing a $2 tax increase on every package of cigarettes.

Supporters say this is a common sense solution for getting people off cigarettes and more money into state coffers, but opponents worry any new tax is a tough sell for voters—even ones who don’t smoke.

“I don’t think it would slow anybody down,” said smoker Ginger Williams, but others say it might help.

“In a general sense of things, I think it would curb that to an extent,” said smoker Farouk Umar, “depending on incomes of peoples’ families.”

Wednesday morning, the health advocacy group announced the results of a poll it says shows 70 percent of Hoosier voters favor the tax, based on a survey of 600 Indiana voters.

“This is an evidence based solution,” said Raise it for Health Chairman Brian Hannon. “We’re not just promoting a cigarette tax to promote a cigarette tax; we know it drives down smoking rates, we know it keeps kids away from tobacco, and we know it raises significant new revenue that we can dedicate to other urgent public health programs.”

The group has pushed the proposal each of the past four years with no success. They’re hoping lawmakers will be more open to it this year, since they’re drafting a budget and might be open to additional sources of revenue.

“We have to look at this holistically and I think we have to continue to remind lawmakers that health is connected to our economic engine as well,” said Hannon.

Retired Democratic state lawmaker Charlie Brown previously authored legislation that didn’t pass. But this year’s proposal is being authored by Republican representative Cindy Kirchhofer, who in a statement said in part, “raising the tax on packs of cigarettes is a vital public health initiative that could cut health care costs for many Hoosiers. This proposal could help significantly lower the state’s smoking rate and tackle other issues like Indiana’s high infant mortality rate.”

But even still, some smokers say they’d just turn to other routes like rolling their own cigarettes instead of buying.

“There’s always a way around it,” said Williams.

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