As a member-driven association representing more than 1,200 businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs in Carmel and Fishers, OneZone is proud of Indiana’s strong rankings for business climate, tax policy and public-private partnership. Yet, our state is not competitive when it comes to the health of our workforce, and collectively, we are paying a hidden tax for our lack of focus. The Indiana House missed an opportunity to address this.
House Bill 1380 would have raised the state’s legal smoking age from 18 to 21. We believe this would reduce smoking among an impressionable segment of our population. Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death of working-age adults. It is estimated that 6,000 kids begin the habit each year. The longer we can delay tobacco initiation, the healthier our kids will be.
Employers looking for communities in which to relocate want a healthy workforce. We know they are looking at health statistics, health care costs and other factors, not just in Hamilton County, but Marion and surrounding counties. Don’t think the number-crunchers at Amazon haven’t done their homework!
Business leaders in Indiana strive to be good stewards of employee and community health. They provide health coverage, offer wellness programs and support employees when medical emergencies arise. They invest in community programs that promote health. They do this—and we do this at OneZone—not only because we care about Hoosier health, but we also know that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce.
There is only so much a business can do absent supportive public policy. Wellness programs and health insurance alone are not enough. We need expanded public policies to reduce smoking rates, lower health care costs and strengthen our workforce. While HB 1380 is dead for 2018, OneZone will continue to support smoking cessation legislation next year. We encourage our membership to reach out to their representatives in the Indiana Legislature and let them know this continues to be an important issue.
Mo Merhoff, president, OneZone