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Indiana health advocates push to double tobacco tax

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – More than 100 health advocates plan to visit the Statehouse to push for increasing the price of tobacco. They say a higher cigarette tax will have several big benefits for Hoosiers and their health.

The advocates are led by Hoosiers for Healthier Indiana and more than 30 organizations are involved. They’re going to ask lawmakers to increase the cigarette tax by a dollar, essentially doubling the current tax.

While that is a big jump, Indiana’s cigarette tax is more than 50 cents below the national average and there hasn’t been an increase since 2007. Residents in Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin all pay about $2 or more in taxes on a pack of smokes. Indiana smokers pay just $1.

But Hoosiers for a Healthier Indiana (HHI) say it’s not just about making smoking more expensive. They say the increase would have several effects including a projected 13 percent decrease in youth smoking, the prevention of premature, tobacco-caused death in 32,500 Indiana smokers, a long-term savings of more than $2 billions in health-care costs and $244 million in new revenue to fund state health programs.

The proposed increase by HHI would only affect tobacco, not e-cigarettes, which are currently not taxed at all at this point.