Letter: Raising cigarette tax could save lives

To the editor:

The use of tobacco is the most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Numerous types of cancers including lung cancer, respiratory diseases and heart disease are related to the use of tobacco.

More than 11,000 Hoosiers die from their own smoking every year. For every death, another 30 Hoosiers are living with a chronic condition due to smoking and other uses of tobacco. In Indiana, 16.5 percent of pregnant women smoke, which is a contributor to Indiana’s infant mortality. Smoking doubles the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, causes 20 to 30 percent of low-birth-weight babies and contributes to other health problems.

Advocating for smoke-free environments, encouraging pregnant women to be smoke free, preventing youth from tobacco use and offering smoking cessation all play a part in decreasing the risk of disease and dying from a tobacco-related illness.

The introduction of the electronic cigarette, also known as e-cigarette, on the market poses a potential health concern. This is a nicotine delivery system that some health professionals suggest is a safer alternative to cigarettes and other tobacco products and may also be used as a cessation tool. It should be noted that currently this product is not regulated by the FDA, and marketing may lead to the use and nicotine addiction by minors and nonsmokers.

There is no proof that the vapor is safe for the person using this product or for those who breathe the secondhand vapor. Furthermore, the liquid nicotine that is used in the cartridges may pose a poisoning threat. FDA approved tobacco cessation aids are available and recommended.

A state-funded cessation program is available to individuals wishing to quit smoking. The free quit line may be reached by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Indiana is limited, however, in its tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which receive less than 8 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended funding level. Data and statistics provided by the Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County show that Indiana taxpayers suffer an extraordinary financial burden from tobacco use.

Indiana taxpayers pay the bill for $2.18 billion ($570 per household) in annual health care expenditures directly caused by tobacco use. Increasing the Indiana cigarette tax by $1 would reduce youth smoking by 13 percent, save the lives of 32,000 Hoosiers from premature smoking-caused death and result in $2.08 billion in long term health care savings.

Increasing the Indiana cigarette tax by $1 would result in 11,000 fewer smoking-affected births and save taxpayers $24 million in health care costs from smoking-affected pregnancies and births over the next five years.

A $1 increase in tobacco prices would provide $244 million in new revenue for public health programs, helping our residents lead productive lives.

Let’s make 2015 the year for public health progress and increase the price of tobacco.

Bob Smith II,

Environmental health specialist

Johnson County Health Department