Beacon Health System is the area’s largest provider of health care. Whether it’s in one of our many physician offices or emergency departments, or at one of our outpatient sites, we provide care to more than a million residents in our community each year. As a healthcare provider this next statement should come as no surprise – Beacon Health System supports efforts to increase the tax on cigarettes.

I’d like to take a moment to explain why we feel this way. Because we take care of a lot of people in our area, we see many people who smoke. What we see with smoking is poor health, chronic health conditions and cancer. It’s heartbreaking to see the real consequences that families face as they witness a loved one who can’t live their highest quality of life or whose life is cut short. From a broader perspective, smoking rates in our state are higher than the national average, and prenatal smoking rates are much higher.

A recent report released by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation found that tobacco use has resulted in a major health crisis in Indiana. More than 12,500 people in Indiana die prematurely each year from tobacco use. This includes 11,100 smokers and 1,400 nonsmokers, who die from exposure to secondhand smoke. According to the report, tobacco claims seven times as many lives as the opioid epidemic.

We can do better, and we should do better. I am not advocating for taking away rights. However, I do support having all of us think twice about our unhealthy habits. And maybe even changing them.

It is also very expensive to take care of people whose health has been affected by smoking and may be dying from a condition related to or caused by smoking. Each year, the direct healthcare costs associated with tobacco use amount to $3.3 billion. The state Medicaid program bears approximately $540 million of that cost, which means that Indiana taxpayers are affected, too. In fact, Hoosier families face an unnecessary combined annual state and federal tax burden of $1,125 per household to cover the healthcare costs that result from tobacco use. On top of that, secondhand smoke results in healthcare costs of $2.2 billion each year, according to the report.

For all of these reasons we support increasing the tax on cigarettes. Evidence shows that when the costs of cigarettes are raised, fewer people will start, and many people will quit. Raising the cigarette tax will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars that could support programs that help people quit smoking, and help with the high costs of care.

I hope you will consider supporting a tax increase on cigarettes because of the positive impact it will have on the health and well-being of our entire community. 

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