Two More Editorials Endorse Young’s Bill to Raise Tobacco Age
Indiana Business Journal: Congress should approve Sen. Todd Young's bill to boost smoking age; KPC News: Hoosier senator works to curb teen smoking
WASHINGTON – Two more Indiana newspapers, the Indiana Business Journal (IBJ) and KPC Newspapers in northeast Indiana, have endorsed Senator Young’s Tobacco to 21 Act – bipartisan legislation to prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone under the age of 21.
“U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., impressed us this month when he and three other senators (one Republican and two Democrats) introduced legislation to raise the age at which people can buy tobacco products to 21,” IBJ wrote. “IBJ wholeheartedly agrees and endorses Young’s efforts…”
“Ignoring public opinion, Indiana lawmakers did nothing this year to fight the unfortunate smoking rate among Hoosiers. Fortunately, one of Indiana’s U.S. senators is picking up the ball that state legislators dropped,” KPC Newspapers wrote.
Last week, the South Bend Tribune, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, and Tribune-Star editorial boards endorsed the Tobacco to 21 Act. Senators Young and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) also penned an op-ed for CNN outlining the need for their bill.
Read the latest editorials below.
Editorial: Congress should approve Sen. Todd Young's bill to boost smoking age
May 10, 2019 IBJ Staff
U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., impressed us this month when he and three other senators (one Republican and two Democrats) introduced legislation to raise the age at which people can buy tobacco products to 21.
Young said he introduced the bill because “the nationwide epidemic of tobacco and electronic cigarette use among high school and middle school students can no longer be ignored.” He pointed to statistics that say roughly 95 percent of adult smokers picked up the habit before the age of 21.
IBJ wholeheartedly agrees and endorses Young’s efforts—especially in the wake of the Indiana General Assembly’s disappointing failure to act on a similar proposal as well as a bill that would have significantly increased the cigarette tax. That’s despite strong support for both bills from a broad spectrum of business, religious, health and not-for-profit organizations.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce was among them. “Smoking is costing employers and the state more than $6 billion annually in lost productivity and health care,” Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar said in a statement in January. “Research has shown that significantly increasing what a pack of cigarettes costs and upping the legal age to smoke do yield positive results.”
Indiana has one of the nation’s highest smoking rates, with 1 million Hoosiers smoking every day, but its 99.5 cents a pack cigarette tax is the nation’s 14th-lowest.
Raise It for Health, a coalition formed to push the cigarette tax increase, argued that Indiana ranks 39th among states in the overall health of its residents—with smoking rates the primary factor for the state’s low ranking.
“What’s worse is that as other states are improving their tobacco utilization rate, Indiana is moving in the wrong direction with an adult smoking rate that is 50 percent above the national average,” said Bryan Mills, CEO of Community Health Network.
A $2-per-pack increase in the tax could have generated more than $300 million in annual revenue, money the state could have used to launch a campaign to urge smokers to quit and to provide them with evidenced-based tools to do so—the kind of campaign that has proven successful in other states, including Florida.
Indiana launched a similar approach years ago, when—using money from the 1997 Master Tobacco Settlement—it began dedicating about $35 million a year for smoking cessation programs, making the state one of the leaders in tobacco-control efforts. And the programs showed early signs of success.
But over the years, lawmakers siphoned away the money and all but dismantled the state’s anti-smoking programs. By 2017, Indiana was dedicating just about $6 million in state funding each year to smoking cessation efforts, according to a report prepared for the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.
Such short-sighted decisions are costing Indiana governments, businesses and individuals billions of dollars in increased health care costs. It’s fairly rare we say this, but at IBJ, we’re grateful Congress may be stepping in to help. Let’s hope Indiana lawmakers take action next year to make further federal steps unnecessary.
KPC News: Hoosier senator works to curb teen smoking
May 12, 2019
Ignoring public opinion, Indiana lawmakers did nothing this year to fight the unfortunate smoking rate among Hoosiers.
Fortunately, one of Indiana’s U.S. senators is picking up the ball that state legislators dropped.
Heading into this year’s session of the Indiana General Assembly, a poll by the Indiana Chamber showed 62 percent of Hoosiers supported an increase of $2 per pack on cigarettes. Indiana charges 99 cents — now the lowest rate among our neighbors.
Even more Hoosiers, 65 percent, said they support raising the age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21.
Two separate surveys found even greater support for a higher cigarette tax at 70 and 72 percent. One of those polls, by Ball State University, reported that 61 percent of Hoosiers favored a higher smoking-age limit.
Statistics show 21.8 percent of Hoosiers were smokers in 2018, the 44th-highest rate among the 50 states. Even worse, our rate is going in the wrong direction, up slightly from 21.1 percent a year earlier.
If legislators didn’t like tripling our cigarette tax, a more gradual step could have helped. A news report from Kentucky said 40 percent of that state’s smokers cut back or tried to quit after a tax increase of only 50 cents per pack to $1.10.
A high smoking rate leads to higher health-care costs and lost productivity, not to mention the personal tragedy of diseases caused by smoking.
“We cannot truly be among the very best states to work and live without dramatic improvement in these areas,” said Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.
All of that fell on deaf ears in Indianapolis, except for those of Indiana’s U.S. Sen. Todd Young.
In Washington, Young is co-sponsoring a bill to raise the national minimum age to buy tobacco products — including e-cigarettes — to 21.
Young points to a sudden, rapid rise in tobacco use among middle and high school students. The Centers for Disease Control reports an increase of 36 percent in only one year from 2017 to 2018.
“It’s a nationwide epidemic that can no longer be ignored: the use of tobacco products, particularly e-cigarettes and vaping devices, among teenagers and young adults,” Young and Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii wrote in a article for CNN last week.
Electronic cigarettes increased by 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students in that one-year period from 2017 to 2018, the senators said.
Arguing their case for a higher age limit, Young and Schatz point to the fact that 95 percent of smokers start smoking before the age of 21.
They say that if current rates of smoking continue, about one out of 13 living Americans ages 17 or younger will die from smoking-related illnesses.
“There is also a strong financial case for passing our bill. Taxpayers continue to foot the bill for smokers’ health care in the form of higher Medicare, Medicaid and other health care costs,” the senators wrote.
“Bottom line: Raising the tobacco legal age of sale is smart policy to protect kids, improve public health and reduce health care costs,” Young and Schatz concluded.
If Congress also fails to take action, private businesses might come to the rescue of young people’s health.
Last week, Walmart said it will stop selling tobacco or e-cigarettes products to anyone younger than the age of 21 in the United States. The changes will take effect July 1.
Walgreens also said its stores will end the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 starting Sept. 1.
One way or another, Hoosiers need help with our state’s smoking rate. When it comes, you’d think our state legislators would want to share the credit.
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