By Victoria Ratliff
INDIANAPOLIS—Nearly three out of four Hoosiers support a $2 per pack hike in the cost of cigarettes and using the new money to keep children from smoking and helping current smokers quit.
That is the result of a recent survey conducted by Bellwether Research and Consulting and paid for by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The survey results were presented at a media event Wednesday at the Statehouse where a coalition of business and health professionals want lawmakers to increase the cigarette tax by $2 per pack.
Christine Matthews, president of Bellwether Research & Consulting, announces the results of the latest poll on a cigarette tax hike. Photo by Victoria Ratliff, TheStatehouseFile.com.
The Raise if for Health Indiana campaign was organized to pressure lawmakers, whose 2019 legislative session started last week, into increasing the cigarette tax.
The groups have presented similar findings from polls to legislators in the past four sessions, but have failed to get action on the tax increase.
“Hoosiers don’t view this as a regular tax. They see it much more as a user fee,” Bryan Hannon, chair of Tobacco Free Indiana and Raise it for Health, said.
The survey also found that Hoosiers were disappointed that Indiana is so late to focusing on public health. Seventy-eight percent of people surveyed who were registered to vote said they would be more likely to support a legislator who believes that “Indiana has to be willing to spend money to improve its poor public health rating.”
Indiana has the 44th lowest cigarette tax in the United States behind neighboring states Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky.
Christine Matthews, president of Bellwether Research & Consulting, said that not only does this tax have a high amount of support, they also have high intensity behind the tax.
Of the surveyed, 51 percent strongly agreed that Indiana should pass the $2 tax, while only 19 percent simply said they agreed.
“There are other issues that rise to the forefront,” Matthews said, “but what this coalition is interested in doing is bringing this up to the forefront to make sure there is pressure applied to legislators to notice this. This is what their constituents want.”
Since Indiana’s last cigarette tax increase was passed in July 2007, 35 other states and Washington D.C. have increased their cigarette tax rates 70 times.
“We need to remind lawmakers it is an urgent crisis. More than 11,000 Hoosiers die every year from this,” Hannon said.
Hoosiers can learn more online at RaiseitforHealthIN.com.
Victoria Ratliff is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.