(INDIANAPOLIS) – A possible cigarette tax hike is getting a cautious response from legislative leaders.
Health groups and the Indiana Chamber are lobbying to triple the cigarette tax to three bucks a pack. They say it would save the state and businesses money by getting more smokers to quit and reducing health costs.
Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray is neither endorsing the idea nor ruling it out, but says it’ll be discussed. That’s a change from 2016 and 2017, when the Senate didn’t even consider a tax hike after the House passed it. Bray says a big tax hike on anything will make many senators queasy, but says the debate over cigarettes isn’t really about the money the tax would raise, but about whether making cigarettes more expensive would dissuade teenagers from smoking and prod adults into kicking the habit.
Speaker Brian Bosma notes when the House supported a tax hike, it was part of a road funding plan. As a stand-alone proposal, he says it would be harder to pass, though not impossible.
Governor Holcomb has said he’ll prioritize two bills next year to reduce infant death rates. Health groups argue a cigarette tax hike would address that goal too. Holcomb says his administration is still studying the idea. He’s scheduled to announce his full 2019 agenda next month.
Indiana’s cigarette tax is the 15th-lowest in the U.S. The last increase was in 2007.