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Indiana lawmakers discuss 1st cigarette tax hike since 2007

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 2:09 PM EST
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(WNDU) - A push to double Indiana’s per pack cigarette tax began today in the state legislature.

Indiana’s current $1 per pack cigarette tax has been in place since 2007. It would be increased by $1 on July 1st if the bill passes.

H.B. 1434 came up for a hearing today before the House Committee on Public Policy.

In addition to the cigarette tax increase, the bill would start imposing a tax on e-liquid used for vaping.

“I’m still floored that we are treating e-liquid the same as what we treat tobacco products. E-liquid is the number one way for individuals to quit smoking,” Mason Odle with Smoke Free Indiana told the panel. “It’s been proven. 20 percent more people quit smoking using our product, e-liquids, versus the FDA approved Chantix, Wellbutrin, the patch, Nicorette gum. All of those products which are out there have not helped as much as e-liquid products have.”

Brian Hannon with the American Cancer Society held up a two pack of Juul e-cigarettes and told the panel they contained as much nicotine as two packs of cigarettes. “It defines e-cigarettes as a tobacco product and makes sure that we’re taxing other tobacco products like e-cigarettes in a parallel manner that we’re taxing cigarettes. The importance of tobacco tax parity in public health is to make sure when you raise the price on one tobacco product, you’re raising the price on other tobacco products so as not to encourage switching.”

Indiana State Chamber of Commerce CEO Kevin Brinegar said there are people who use vaping products to step down from smoking and become smoke free, “but research I’ve seen says there are far more individuals who go from vaping to smoking or dual usage than go from vaping to non-use.”

An amendment passed today would place a 39 percent tax at the wholesale level on e-liquids that contain nicotine.

The bill’s author said it would increase the cost of a “pod” of e-liquid from $4 to $5.56.

Pediatrician Dr. Patrick Clements cited a 2018 CDC report that showed one in four high school students had used e-cigarettes in the past month, as well as one in 20 middle school students. “I also know that electronic cigarette liquid is incredibly high in the amount of nicotine, and about trying to wean folks cigarette use to electronic cigarettes, trying to wean them to one product that actually has the higher amount of the addictive chemical nicotine, that’s really, really, tough for our families.”

The most common criticism of the bill levelled today was that only 30 percent of the new revenue brought in was directed to be spent on health initiatives.

“This bill should be amended to make sure more of that money goes where it deserves to go, to protect our children, to health care,” said Marion County Health Department Director Virginia Caine, MD.

Committee members did not vote on the bill today. Some indicated they wanted to draw up amendments that would restrict the use of more of the revenue to health-related concerns.

From the Associated Press

INDIANANPOLIS (AP) - Indiana could increase its cigarette tax for the first time in more than a decade and impose a new state tax on vaping liquids under a proposal being considered by state lawmakers.

The proposal discussed by an Indiana House committee Monday would add $1 to the state’s current 99.5 cents per pack cigarette tax.

It has the backing of many health organizations and business groups as a way to discourage smoking and reduce Indiana’s high smoking rate.

The bill also would charge a 39% tax on the liquids used in e-cigarettes, which the sponsor says would be roughly equivalent to the cigarette tax.

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)