To the editor:
Last week, dozens of major health organizations from across the state met together at the Indiana Statehouse to call for an end to cheap tobacco.
It’s time that our lawmakers take seriously the impact tobacco has on our communities. Part of that impact is due to the low price of the product which entices more and more individuals to partake.
Indiana has one of the highest smoking rates in the country at 23 percent and cheap tobacco makes it even easier to smoke in our state. Its $0.995-per-pack cigarette tax has not been increased in nine years and ranks far below the national average of $1.61 per pack.
Because tobacco is so affordable and accessible, more than 5,700 Hoosier youth become daily smokers each year.
Lawmakers have the opportunity to raise the price of cigarettes by one dollar per pack in HB 1001, which would lead to a 12 percent decrease in youth smoking and prevent 20,400 premature deaths.
Indiana would also generate $239 million in new revenue to fund Medicaid.
As a health advocate, I am proud to stand with Tobacco Free Indiana in urging the General Assembly to increase the price of tobacco products.
For the sake of families and communities across our state, let’s make 2016 the year Indiana kicks its tobacco addiction.
Kenneth E. Bobb, M.D.
Dr. Bobb is the former health officer for Jackson County and chairman of the Smoke Free Seymour Coalition.