Groups Fight to Reduce Hoosier Smoking in 2015

Dec 1, 2014

Indiana Chamber of Commerce CEO Kevin Brinegar wants legislators to repeal the state's Smoker's Bill of Rights in 2015.
Credit Courtesy / Indiana Chamber of Commerce

American Cancer Society officials say Indiana lawmakers should explore ways to help incentivize Hoosiers to quit smoking, a position reflected in the group’s 2015 legislative priorities.

Apart from health advocacy organizations like the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, groups such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce are part of the fight to reduce smoking.  For two years, one of the group’s legislative priorities has been eliminating the Smoker’s Bill of Rights.

Chamber CEO Kevin Brinegar says the law, passed more than two decades ago, bars employers from refusing to hire smokers or charging them more for health insurance.

“And if we really want to get employers involved in helping to reduce smoking in our state, we need to repeal this statute,” Brinnegar said.

The General Assembly passed a statewide smoking ban two years ago.  Cancer Action Network government relations director Brianna Herndon says lawmakers should expand it to cover all workplaces, including casinos and bars, which were exempted from the ban. 

Yet the effort to pass the smoking ban took years and Herndon acknowledges there’s not much appetite for more action.

“But I think in the fight against cancer, everybody is affected and that includes members of our General Assembly, whether they’re survivors themselves or they have a friend or a loved one that’s been diagnosed with the disease,” Herndon said.

She adds her organization also wants lawmakers to raise the state’s tobacco tax for the first time in eight years.  At less than one dollar per pack, it’s more than fifty cents below the national average.