(INDIANAPOLIS) — House and Senate leaders are noncommittal about whether you might pay more for cigarettes next year.
Business and health groups have argued for years the state could cut smoking rates by raising the
tax. The tax of just under a dollar a pack is the 12th-lowest in the country, and hasn’t gone up in 13
House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the cost of
Indiana’s poor public health, and says Republicans will introduce bills to improve it. But he says his
members haven’t discussed whether a cigarette tax hike should be one of them. He and Senate
President Pro Tem Rod Bray won’t go beyond saying it’s a possibility. Bray notes a tax bill would
have to start in the House anyway, and says senators will consider it if it reaches them.
Huston, Bray and Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) all agree if they do take up a
cigarette tax bill, they need to think about how the money would be spent. They note the point of
raising the tax is to get you to quit smoking — and if it works, that means the state will collect less
money. Taylor says that means you can’t rely on it as a cornerstone of the overall state budget.
Bray and Taylor both say they’d like to see any cigarette tax hike earmarked for health needs. Taylor says there should be a particular focus on health in poor neighborhoods.
In the last six years, the House has voted twice to raise the cigarette tax, and once to impose a tax
on vaping fluid. The Senate killed all three, with the vape tax becoming entangled in a stalemate over
the proper way to impose it.