A bill increasing the age to legally purchase cigarettes from 18 to 21 in Indiana has unanimously passed the Indiana House Public Health Committee. The measure, which no longer includes a cigarette tax increase, now moves to the full House for consideration.

The cigarette tax issue will likely come back up during next year's longer budget session.

Among those testifying in favor of the age increase was Indiana Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Kevin Brinegar, He says additional insurance costs for smokers top $2.9 billion per year for Indiana businesses. Brinegar says there is an additional impact of $3.2 billion for absenteeism and other factors related to smoking.

The American Lung Association in Indiana released the following statement:

"Today, the state of Indiana took the first step in passing legislation that would protect young people from beginning a lifetime of addiction and ultimately save their lives. In addition to dramatically increasing public health, this proposed legislation would save millions in health care costs in the state of Indiana.

The American Lung Association in Indiana applauds the Public Health Committee for voting to raise the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 today. It’s time that Indiana join the other states, like California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, and Oregon in this smart policy to protect our kids from the scourge of Big Tobacco, and ultimately save lives. There are also more than 290 municipalities across the country that have passed this legislation.

We strongly encourage the Indiana House and Senate to follow suit and support this legislation, which is proven to protect the most vulnerable parts of our population, our children, reduce state health care costs and ultimately save lives."