By Mike Ripley

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is a founding member of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana.  Our effort really isn’t about generating tax revenues; it’s about creating real economic discouragement for people to start or continue smoking.

What’s motivating us? Consider these sobering statistics:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 Hoosiers still smoke today. Tobacco costs Indiana employers $6.17 billion a year in healthcare costs and lost productivity
  • Workers compensation for smokers averages $2,189 – compared to only $176 for non-smokers
  • Visits to health care providers are six times higher for smokers than non-smokers
  • Hospitalization rates are more than twice as high for smokers and hospital stays are nearly 1.5 days longer

In the coming weeks, the Senate Appropriations Committee will take action on a House-passed plan (in House Bill 1001) to increase the state’s cigarette tax by an additional $1 per pack. However, pressure is building to slash the amount, effectively nullifying any real smoking reduction benefits.

The Indiana Chamber strongly supports an increase of no less than $1 per pack. It’s important that the tax increase be at least to that level because research shows that a $1 or more increase will reduce smoking, but less than $1 will have little or no impact on smoking levels. Smoking industry supporters know this and that’s why they are working to reduce the tax if they can’t kill it entirely.

Reducing tobacco use is the single most important step we can take to improve public health and reduce spiraling health care costs. It’s a public health crisis, a budget-busting burden for taxpayers, as well as an enormous cost for employers and employees. That’s why legislators need to take action this year to reduce smoking by appropriately increasing the state’s cigarette tax.

Mike Ripley is the Indiana Chamber vice president of health care policy.