New legislation introduced by longtime Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, would drastically increase taxes on cigarettes as well as raise the legal age at which Hoosiers can buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
If passed, House Bill 1380 would boost the state’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, from 99.5 cents to $2.995.
Brown has also authored House Bill 1381, which would remove exemptions from public facilities that still allow smoking indoors such as casinos; cigar and hookah bars; fraternal and social clubs; tobacco stores; taverns; and cigar manufacturing plants and specialty stores.
“The majority of Hoosiers do not want smoke in public places,” said Brown at a rally Tuesday that brought anti-smoking advocates and business leaders to the Indiana Statehouse.
“Business leaders see this more of a user fee than an actual tax,” said Christine Matthews, president of Bellwether Research and Consulting, of HB 1380, which she supports. She said the tax increase is also a way to deter children from picking up smoking and encourage current smokers to break the habit.
Matthews said that Indiana’s business climate is a strong one, but it could be much stronger if the state reduced its smoking rate.
Companies would benefit from reduced health care costs if their employees quit using tobacco products, Matthews said, citing research done by Bellwether.
More than 20 percent of Hoosier adults smoke, compared with a national average of about 15 percent.
Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said if Indiana could drop its smoking rate to the U.S. average, Hoosier businesses would save billions of dollars.
Brinegar is a founding member of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, a group of health care professionals, advocates, and community and business leaders who promote anti-tobacco measures and other efforts to improve health care.