(INDIANAPOLIS) — The annual debate over whether you should pay more for cigarettes and e-
cigarettes is underway at the statehouse.
Indiana’s cigarette tax of just under a dollar a pack is the 13th lowest in the nation. Legislators are
considering a bill to double it, and tax e-cigarettes for the first time. The proposed tax rate of $1.56
on a two-pod pack is aimed at taxing the nicotine content at the same level as traditional cigarettes.
The Indiana Chamber says smoking costs Hoosier businesses $6.2 billion a year in health
costs and lost productivity. Lindsay Lux with the American Heart Association says raising the price
would save lives. She says a 2014 study by the U.S. surgeon general in 2014 calculated every 10%
increase in tax rates produces a 3% drop in smoking rates.
And Marion County health director Virginia Caine says it’s critical to include e-liquids in the bill. She
says vaping among teenagers has doubled in the last two years, wiping out any progress the state
has made in reducing teenage smoking.
Mason Odle, owner of Just Vapors in Fishers, says he fully supports raising the cigarette tax, but
argues e-liquids shouldn’t be included. He contends e-cigarettes are a more popular and effective
means of quitting smoking than FDA-approved products like nicotine gum or patches. That brought
a fierce pushback from health officials, who point out the FDA has specifically banned vape
manufacturers from marketing their product as a stop-smoking aid until they produce more evidence that it works. And Caine says there are serious concerns about lung damage from vaping.
Former Libertarian candidate for governor Don Rainwater argues increasing cigarette taxes would
punish store owners at a time when they’re already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. But the
main objection from House Public Health Committee members centered on the lack of a specific
plan for the proceeds from the tax. A vote has been put off till next week to add language earmarking
the money for health programs.
Governor Holcomb and House and Senate leaders have all said a cigarette tax hike isn’t on their
agenda, without flatly ruling out the possibility. The House approved an increase in 2016 and 2017,
and a vape tax in 2019. All three times, the proposals died in the Senate.