Health care providers from 22 organizations sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb on January 13 urging him to prioritize a cigarette tax increase in the 2021 legislative session and increase investments in public health. The letter, signed by leaders of the 22 healthcare provider groups, said the COVID-19 pandemic had magnified other urgent and deadly health crises in Indiana that must be addressed.
“More than 11,000 Hoosiers will die from a tobacco-related illness in 2021, which is why smoking remains one of the biggest threats to the health of Hoosiers,” said Dr. Lisa Hatcher, MD, past president of the Indiana State Medical Association. “Just as wearing a mask and social distancing can save lives during the pandemic, raising the cigarette tax will save lives for generations to come. Now is the time for action.”
Indiana ranks 48th in the nation for its public investment in health programs. Raising the cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack would help 100,000 Hoosiers end or prevent tobacco addiction and in the first year generate nearly $350 million in revenue that should be directed to underfunded health programs.
“Perhaps no one bears the burden of disinvestment in public health more than Hoosier children,” said Dr. Emily Scott, MD, president of the Indiana Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics. “From infant mortality, to rising rates of childhood obesity to the lingering threats of tobacco addiction, the health of our kids is at risk. Raising the cigarette tax by $2.00 and reinvesting in proven health programs can be transformational for Indiana’s kids.”
Dr. Nykki Boersma, president of the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, said the COVID-19 pandemic should not distract from efforts to fix other health problems in the state. “Indiana’s high smoking rates and low public health investments are hazards that will likely outlast the threat of COVID-19 and that is why it is so important for our policymakers to have a long-term commitment to improving Hoosier health. That commitment starts with raising the cigarette tax by $2.”
Groups signing the letter to Governor Holcomb include Indiana State Medical Association, Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Indiana State Nurses Association, Indiana Dental Association, Indiana Osteopathic Association, Indiana Oncology Society, Indiana Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, Indiana Society for Respiratory Care, Indiana Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, Indiana Pharmacist Association, Indiana Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, Indiana Academy of Physician Assistants, Indiana Academy of Dermatology, Indiana Chapter of the American Thoracic Society, Indiana Dental Hygienists Association, Indiana Chapter of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, Aesculapian Medical Society, Indiana Section of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Indianapolis Medical Society, Coalition for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses of Indiana, and Indiana School Nurses Association.