Indiana cigarette tax proposal raises questions on spending

Indiana legislative leaders are willing to increase the state's cigarette tax but say any measure must include specifics on how the new revenue will be used to improve public health.

Posted: Nov 27, 2020 9:38 AM

MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) — Indiana legislative leaders are willing to increase the state's cigarette tax but say any measure must include specifics on how the new revenue will be used to improve public health.

Indiana's 21.8% adult smoking rate is one of the highest in the nation, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has recommended raising the cigarette tax by $2 per pack to $3.

“The pandemic has taught us that poor quality of health, unfortunately, has dire consequences, and we need to figure out ways to improve Hoosier health,” said House Speaker Todd Huston, a Republican of Fishers.

However, Huston said his experience as the former chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee has taught him that while increasing the cigarette tax is likely to decrease smoking rates, it also will make the additional state revenue less reliable.

“The whole genesis of increasing the cigarette tax is it’s the one thing, more than cessation programs and other things, that’s been shown to reduce smoking,” Huston said. “So literally the day you implement a new tax rate is the most amount of money you’re going to collect if the policy is successful."

House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, of Fort Wayne, said the money raised by a higher cigarette tax eventually will decline, but it’s probably still worthwhile.

“I just don’t want it to go back into the General Fund or something like that. I’d like to really see some concrete programs that we’re going to use the money for to improve the health of Hoosiers,” GiaQuinta said. “There’s a lot of needs out there.”

State Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor, of Indianapolis, said if lawmakers want to tax smoking to raise revenue, the best course would be to legalize and tax recreational marijuana as most of Indiana’s neighboring states already have done.

“We’re going to be on an island out here by ourselves,” Taylor said. “The implementation of medical or recreational marijuana in Indiana would raise more money than any cigarette tax that we could ever think about.”

However, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he opposes legalization as long as marijuana is classified as a prohibited controlled substance by the federal government.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 587049

Reported Deaths: 9287
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion810691296
Lake44121665
Allen31797541
Hamilton28178303
St. Joseph26684369
Elkhart24057340
Vanderburgh18519213
Tippecanoe17305121
Johnson14398284
Porter14342159
Hendricks13793241
Madison10509212
Vigo10432171
Clark10151129
Monroe9029108
Delaware8782129
LaPorte8721153
Kosciusko784677
Howard7834137
Warrick636790
Hancock633297
Bartholomew624294
Floyd6098105
Wayne5903156
Grant5799109
Dubois541670
Boone531467
Morgan512388
Marshall492484
Henry491164
Cass469060
Noble458757
Dearborn454544
Jackson413145
Shelby401178
Lawrence379475
Clinton363639
Gibson355056
DeKalb336363
Montgomery333851
Harrison326042
Knox325439
Miami308243
Steuben304940
Adams294435
Whitley292325
Wabash291645
Ripley290845
Putnam282447
Huntington281257
Jasper280733
White265738
Daviess260772
Jefferson248538
Fayette241348
Decatur241282
Greene232460
Posey230026
Wells228547
LaGrange223461
Clay216432
Scott216437
Randolph207540
Jennings191335
Sullivan188531
Spencer179917
Fountain178625
Washington175018
Starke170741
Jay162021
Fulton158829
Owen157837
Carroll151315
Orange150533
Rush148118
Perry145327
Vermillion144333
Franklin142533
Parke12788
Tipton127332
Pike113125
Blackford107022
Pulaski94637
Newton89020
Brown85530
Benton84110
Crawford7479
Martin69213
Warren6537
Switzerland6175
Union6063
Ohio4647
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