Hoosiers rally for tobacco tax increase

By Andrew Longstreth
TheStateHouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS—Most people wake up in the morning to brush their teeth, but Jeffrey Slinker has to put his teeth in because 25 years of smoking cost him part of his jaw and all of his teeth.

The ex-smoker, whose cancer was successfully treated with chemotherapy, now travels across the country visiting schools and sharing his story to warn young people of the dangers of smoking.

Jeffery Slinker, an ex-smoker and cancer survivor, talks about his health problems as a result of constant tobacco use during a Raise It For Health rally on cigarette taxation. Photo by Andrew Longstreth TheStateHouseFile.com

Slinker, of Indianapolis, joined other anti-smoking advocates at the Statehouse Tuesday to urge lawmakers to enact a $2 per pack tax on cigarettes. The Raise for Health coalition, which is made up of Hoosiers to make Indiana a healthier state, organized the event.

Currently, Indiana is ranked 44 in overall health for its citizens and, at $1 per pack, has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the region. It is estimated that nearly 11,000 Hoosiers lose their lives to tobacco-related illnesses annually, and countless more are affected by it.

Before the start of the current legislative session, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and other health organizations urged lawmakers to enact the $2 increase in every pack of cigarettes to deter smoking. But neither Gov. Eric Holcomb nor the Republicans in the House included the tax increase in the two-year $34.6 billion budget.

The Senate is now working on its version of the budget bill.

Slinker was joined at the anti-smoking press event by Amy Lutz, of Westfield, who lost both of her parents, who were smokers, to lung cancer within 31 days of each other.

Lutz described her sorrow as turned 50 without her parents. Lutz’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2013 following a medical checkup. Her father was diagnosed with cancer just three months later. Lutz could only sit and watch as her parents died one after another.

“I am a cancer orphan, I am mad, and I am disappointed, and frustrated, and scared, no one should have to be a cancer orphan,” said Lutz. “No one should have to bury two parents at one time from smoking.”

Andrew Longstreth is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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