Children urge Indiana lawmakers to raise cigarette tax

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The push to get Hoosiers off tobacco and nicotine is continuing at the statehouse and on Tuesday, it was kids raising their voices to make Indiana healthier. Hundreds of young people turned out for the “Raise It for Our Health” campaign, which urges lawmakers to raise Indiana’s cigarette tax by $2.

Supporters say the proof is in the numbers. According to the American Cancer Society, Indiana spends almost $3 billion a year on tobacco-related health problems.

“My grandmother was affected really bad by it [smoking],” said high school sophomore Nyla Jackson. “She started around my age to smoke and now she has heart problems.”

Jackson said she also lost her other grandmother from smoking. Jackson came all the way from Elkhart to urge lawmakers to pass the $2 cigarette tax.

“I get like, little butterflies,” said Jackson. “I get nervous but I feel like I’m helping a lot of people.”

Some experts say the state of Indiana’s health is in the tank, thanks in large part to tobacco use.

“In almost every important health metric, whether it’s overall health, infant mortality, cancer death rates, heart disease, we rank in the bottom ten,” said Bryan Hannon of the American Cancer Society.

And this year, there’s also a parallel push for a tax on nicotine-containing e-liquids.

“E-cigarettes, sometimes are used to help people stop smoking, but sadly more often than not they’re used to targeted to kids and kids get hooked on them,” said State Rep. Mike Karickhoff (R-Kokomo) who is sponsoring a bill to increase the tax on e-liquids.

But there’s already pushback.

Tuesday morning, the House Ways and Means Committee voted down a budget amendment that would have increased the tax on cigarettes. And in a statement, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, which represents gas stations and convenience stores, said it “strongly opposes tripling the state tobacco tax” and that that issue of an e-liquid tax “should be studied further.”

“We’ve got to do something bold to reverse these rankings and reverse the trend that the state’s on,” said Hannon.

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