Church Leaders Back $1 Hike in Cigarette Taxes

( [email protected] ) Jan 26, 2007 01:24 PM EST

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – A group of religious leaders sent a letter to lawmakers Wednesday calling on them to increase the state cigarette tax by $1 a pack and use the money for anti-smoking and other health programs.

The letter signed by three Indianapolis rabbis and regional leaders for Roman Catholics, United Methodists, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), American Baptists, and Episcopalians, among others, was sent to members of the General Assembly.

The letter urged legislators to provide the federally recommended level of funding of $35 million a year to the quasi-state agency Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation and to dedicate remaining revenue from the tax hike to expanding access to health care for those who lack insurance.

“Rarely is such an opportunity available to profoundly impact our communities,” the letter said.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has asked the General Assembly to raise the cigarette tax by at least 25 cents a pack and to use the new revenue to provide health insurance to low-income adults and immunizations for children. The current cigarette tax is 55.5 cents a pack.

Expanding health care coverage has bipartisan support among lawmakers, but there’s little support so far for raising the cigarette tax.

A poll of 500 registered voters released Monday showed 62 percent of respondents supported a $1 increase in the cigarette tax and 36 percent opposed it. The poll was taken on behalf of anti-smoking groups.

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