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House Republicans considering increase to state tobacco tax

December 16, 2015

Indiana House Republican leaders are considering introducing legislation that would increase Indiana’s tobacco tax as a way to raise more funds for Medicaid and state infrastructure.

No formal bill has been written, but House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, mentioned the possibility of raising the tax Wednesday after a legislative panel discussion with the media.

Bosma spokeswoman Erin Reece said the cigarette tax increase was brought up as an option and will likely be included in a road-funding bill to be authored by Rep. Ed Soliday and Rep. Tim Brown.

Road-funding issues have become a hot topic as legislators prepare for the upcoming General Assembly, which officially begins Jan. 6.

The American Lung Association, American Heart Association and Tobacco Free Indiana all issued statements Wednesday applauding the possibility and calling for an increase of at least $1 per pack of cigarettes.

Indiana’s current cigarette tax has been set at 99.5 cents per pack and hasn’t been raised since 2007, when it was lifted by 44 cents. It ranks 34th highest among states, according to from Tobacco Free Indiana, a coalition of health organizations.

The adult smoking rate in Indiana is 22.9 percent, significantly higher than the national average of 16.8 percent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Three of the four states surrounding Indiana have higher tobacco taxes. Michigan’s is $2 per pack, Illinois’ is $1.98 and Ohio’s is $1.60. Kentucky has a 60-cents-per-pack tax that ranks among the bottom 10 in the nation.

Anti-smoking advocates said a higher tax would have several benefits.

“A significant increase of at least one dollar will be a win for adults who want to quit smoking, a win to prevent youth from smoking, and a win for the state to fund health,” American Heart Association Chairman Monte Curnutt said Wednesday in a written statement.

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