INDIANAPOLIS – On April 2nd, Hoosiers impacted by cigarette smoke and Big Tobacco spoke out at the Statehouse in favor of a $2 per pack tax increase on cigarettes. Survivors of smoking-related illnesses and close family members of smokers shared their emotional stories with lawmakers – urging them to act this year to combat Indiana’s poor health ranking and save residents from premature illness and death.
Madeline Wilson, a speaker at the Statehouse event, lost multiple family members to smoking – including her brother.
“On September 1, 2007, while spending a day with my family, I was called to do what no family member dreams of doing – perform CPR on my brother,” said Madeline, Martinsville resident and constituent of Senate Majority Leader Rodric Bray. “For 31 minutes, I pumped on his chest and tried to breathe life back into his body – praying to God that He would make my actions the ones that would save his life.”
Unfortunately, Madeline’s brother passed away in her arms. He was 48 years old, a father to four children and a smoker.
Another speaker, Amy Lutz, lost both of her parents to lung cancer due to smoking cigarettes.
“In 2014, I became a cancer orphan when both my mother and father passed away from lung cancer within 31 days of one another,” said Amy Lutz, a Westfield resident and constituent of Senator Victoria Spartz. “In one month, I lost the two most important people in my life because of cigarettes.”
The Raise it for Health Statehouse event, which brought together constituents from across the state, sent a clear message to lawmakers: Indiana is on the road to being named the 50th worst state in the nation for adult smoking and action must be taken this year in the way of a cigarette tax increase.
“Lawmakers can no longer sit back and ignore the harmful effects of cigarettes,” said Madeline Wilson. “In order to change the story line for so many Indiana families, we must increase the cigarette tax in 2019.”
“The legislature needs to understand that smoking touches the lives of all Hoosiers – whether directly or indirectly,” said Amy Lutz. “Governor Holcomb and our lawmakers can re-write stories like mine and ensure other Hoosier families don’t suffer the pain and loss that I have endured.”
Amy and Madeline are not the only constituents who support a $2 tax increase on cigarettes. Overall Hoosier sentiment strongly favors a higher cigarette tax. In 2018, a poll of Indiana voters showed all party and political affiliations strongly support raising the state’s cigarette tax as a smart solution to improve Indiana’s critically poor public health. Seventy percent of voters supported the increase with some revenue being dedicated to tobacco prevention programs to keep kids from using tobacco and help smokers quit. The poll also found that two-thirds of voters are more likely to support a state legislator who supports a cigarette tax increase.
In addition, over 200 leading Indiana organizations support raising the state cigarette tax by $2 per-pack, including the Indiana Hospital Association, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Youth Institute and the American Lung Association in Indiana.
“Smoking kills approximately 30 Hoosiers a day, which adds up to 11,000 residents dying each year from tobacco-related illness,” said Bryan Hannon, Indiana government relations director at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Chair of Raise It for Health. “Today, lawmakers heard personal stories from constituents like Amy and Madeline. What they did not hear were the stories from the thousands of other Hoosier families who experienced similar outcomes within the last year. It is irresponsible for Indiana lawmakers not to increase the cigarette tax when they know doing so will save lives.”
Raise it for Health, a coalition comprising over 200 partner organizations like Tobacco Free Indiana, Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, Indiana Chamber and Indiana Hospital Association, is leading the charge on the cigarette tax in 2019. For more information about Raise it for Health or additional stories like those above, please visit http://raiseitforhealthin.com/.