INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 16, 2018) - Advocates gathered at the Statehouse today to show their support for HB 1380, a bill to reduce smoking in Indiana by increasing the state's cigarette tax. Supporters at the rally provided information to lawmakers on the importance of taking action to improve Hoosier health. "This year, I authored legislation increasing the cigarette tax as a way to emphasize that smoking is unhealthy and can be a gateway to harder substances," said State Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary). "Indiana needs a significant increase in the price of cigarettes to make smokers feel, in their wallets, the urgency of quitting this unhealthy habit." Representative Brown joined business and health leaders from across Indiana at the Statehouse to educate legislators about the importance of tax increase. According to Brown, the $2 increase proposed in HB 1380 would reduce smoking, save lives, strengthen Indiana's workforce and raise revenue that can be dedicated to urgent public health priorities, including helping more smokers quit and fighting the opioid epidemic. "Indiana takes pride in having a strong business climate," said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and found member of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, a group of health care professionals, advocates and community and business leaders from across the state who are committed to making Indiana a healthier place to live and work. "However, the health of Hoosiers is holding the state back from achieving even more. Indiana ranks 38th in the nation in overall health, and this is largely due to the state's high smoking rate. Our current tax of 99.5 cents per pack is lower than all but one of our surrounding states. Increasing the price is the single most effective method for decreasing smoking rates, especially in those under age 18." According to America's Health Rankings 2017 Report, Indiana ranks 41st worst in the nation for percentage of smokers. Recent data from Bellwether Research and Consulting shows that Indiana business leaders support the cigarette tax increase due to rising health care costs. Indiana's current smoking rate of 21 percent costs the state $5.4 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity. "We are consistently fighting the uphill battle of maintaining a healthy workforce and combating the opioid epidemic," said Bryan Hannon, chair of Tobacco Free Indiana and Raise It For Health. "Smoking alone is killing 11,000 Hoosiers each year. An increase in the cigarette tax is a step in the right direction to improve overall Hoosier Health." Raise It For Health was created in 2017 by Tobacco Free Indiana as a campaign focused on raising the state's cigarette tax. For more information about Raise It For Health and the cause, visit www.raiseitforhealthin.com.