(ANDERSON) HERALD BULLETIN

While the percentage of adult smokers has fallen dramatically in the United States during the past 50 years, declining from 42 in 1965 to 15 in 2015, cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable deaths nationally.

Smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths annually, or 1 of every 5 across the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In Indiana, our smoking rate has declined, as well. Still, about 22 percent of Hoosier adults smoke, a rate matched here in Madison County. That’s among the dozen highest state smoking rates. But our cigarette tax ranks among the lowest. Hoosier smokers pay $1 a pack in taxes.

House Bill 1578, currently in the House Ways and Means Committee, seeks to raise the cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack, as well as appropriating about $70 million over the 2017-19 state budget “from the tobacco master settlement agreement fund to the tobacco use prevention and cessation trust fund for the state department of health to implement the long range state plan for the prevention and reduction of the usage of tobacco … in Indiana,” according to a summary of the bill on the Indiana General Assembly website.

Those two aspects of the bill would help discourage smoking in Indiana by increasing public awareness and by simply making it more expensive to smoke.

A third aspect of the bill, which would raise the minimum age for smoking from 18 to 21, is a bit more problematic. While taking cigarettes out of the hands of older teenagers, it would run contrary in spirit to voting and military service minimum ages. Both establish the threshold of adulthood at 18 years of age.

If 18-year-olds are mature enough to help elect the president of the United States and to risk their lives in defense of our country, aren’t they mature enough to decide whether to light up?

Provided House Bill 1578 is modified to remove the provision raising the minimum age for smoking, it’s a slam dunk to make Hoosiers healthier by raising more revenue for smoking education and cessation efforts.

Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.