Basketball coaches push for cigarette tax hike

(WISH Photo/Ron Nakasone)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -Tuesday was cancer awareness day at the Statehouse. It’s an annual event that took on a little different meaning this year.

That’s because it came in the middle of efforts to pass a cigarette tax hike as part of a road funding bill.

And that means that some of the Statehouse support for the American Cancer Society has limits.

It’s a definite fashion statement. People all over the Statehouse wore sneakers with suits today. The idea came from the American Cancer Society as a way to promote cancer awareness.

“We have a lot of advocates who are really jazzed up about this and excited about it,” said Bryan Hannon of the Cancer Society.

It takes place every year and every year basketball coaches show up to take part.

This year they brought a political message with them with regard to a proposed one dollar a pack hike in the cigarette tax.

“That one dollar could change so much as far as our future,” said IUPUI coach Jason Gardner.

“It can help deter young kids from starting,” said Indiana State coach Greg Lansing, “and it also can make people that have done it for a long time, have it as a habit, maybe deter them and get them to quit smoking.”

But for lawmakers, opposition to smoking is sometimes tough to convert in support for a tax hike.

Representative Dan Forestal wore sneakers. “But to have that revenue go towards roads as opposed to health is just very strange,” he said. “It’s not the way we do things normally.”

He can’t support the tax hike.

But then, Senator Ron Grooms,is a Republican who generally opposes tax hikes.

“Yes it’s a burden, yes,” he said, “but so is tobacco smoking and so is cancer.”

He’s on board.

The Cancer Society accepts all of it. “We just hope that maybe those who aren’t as supportive right now will eventually come around to this idea,” said Hannon.

And a little controversy may actually help the awareness.

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