The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s cigarette tax is set to jump 44 cents higher next month, and smoking cessation advocates hope the increased cost of tobacco will spur some people to kick the habit.

Delana Bennington, coordinator of Tobacco Free Boone County, said she’s adding another stop-smoking class to her organization’s six-week schedule because interest in the programs has grown.

Cigarette taxes will increase to 99.5 cents per pack on July 1. The state expects 23,400 adult smokers to quit because of the increase.

“I’m receiving so many phone calls from people ready to quit,” Bennington said. “They say they can no longer afford it.”

Bennington’s organization is one of 100 groups in 87 counties that get funding from the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation program.

The statewide program’s budget was cut from $32.5 million in the 2003 fiscal year to $10.8 million last year. But this year, the Indiana General Assembly increased funding to $16.2 million, with $1.2 million coming from higher cigarette taxes.

“The gas tank’s not as full as I’d like it,” said Judy Monroe, state health commissioner. “But everything is scaled up from where we were and scaled down from where we want to be.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels wanted legislators to direct nearly $35 million annually for stop-smoking programs — the level the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended Indiana spend to have an effective anti-smoking program.

“Obviously, I was for more such funding than the Legislature ultimately agreed to,” Daniels said. “But it’s a big increase.”

Anti-smoking advocates say smoking cessation programs can help Indiana reduce its smoking rate of 27.3 percent — the second highest in the nation behind only by Kentucky.

But Sen. Robert L. Meeks, R-LaGrange, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he didn’t want to give the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation program any funding.

“It hasn’t been effective,” he said. “They haven’t made their case.”

The program is not failing because it doesn’t work but because it hasn’t been funded adequately, said Aaron Doeppers, Midwest region director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“If ITPC was not effective, we would be the first ones lobbying the Legislature for a change,” Doeppers said. “Instead, after examining ITPC against the CDC Best Practices and the most effective programs in the country, we reached the conclusion that this is one of the best-run programs in existence, and we fight tooth and nail to preserve it.”

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said the higher cigarette tax and anti-smoking funding should be just a starting point for Indiana. He said he wants lawmakers next year to pass a law making Indiana smoke free in most public places.

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