Opioids, Tobacco Caused 14K Indiana Fatalities in 2017, Reports Say

November 19, 2018

Opioids and tobacco claimed the lives of 14,200 Indiana residents last year, costing the state $12.6 billion in health care expenses, lost productivity and other economic damages, two new reports say.

The studies released by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation recommend that Indiana raise the state’s cigarette tax by $2 a pack and increase the legal smoking age to 21. The Indianapolis-based foundation, which provides grants to improve Hoosiers’ well-being through education and tobacco and opioid addiction efforts, also recommends in the reports expanding access to syringe exchanges and safe disposal sites for opioids.

The foundation’s president and CEO, Claire Fiddian-Green, said meaningful action has been taken to confront both the opioid epidemic and tobacco use across Indiana, but warned that the new reports show that “we still have tremendous unfinished business.” She said the “two addiction challenges are root causes of Indiana’s poor health outcomes and burdensome health care costs.”

Republican leaders in the Indiana House this year blocked a proposal to increase the legal age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21. Proposals for a $1-per-pack increase in Indiana’s current 99-cent cigarette tax cleared the House in 2016 and 2017 but failed in the Senate.

The reports acknowledge that Indiana has seen a steep decline since 2011 in fatal overdoses involving prescription opioids but note there’s been a rapid rise in the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Smoking and second-hand smoke cause a total of 12,500 deaths in Indiana each year, according to one of the reports.

The two studies found that businesses lose about $2.8 billion per year in productivity due to tobacco use, while Indiana families face a combined $1,125 per household in additional state and federal taxes to cover health care costs for tobacco use.