Statehouse is averse to tax increases, but this one could lead to longer, healthier lives
Seldom could one piece of legislation do so much good in an entire state as House Bill 1578 offers. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, a Republican from Beech Grove, would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, increase the state cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack, and invest the additional revenue in efforts to improve Hoosiers’ health. The legislation also would devote more money to tobacco-cessation programs and eliminate ill-conceived employment protections for smokers.
The Legislative Services Agency estimates that the tax increase would trigger a 14 percent reduction in cigarette sales. But it also would generate more than $400 million a year in new state revenue.
In other words, a reduction in smoking would allow more Hoosiers to lead healthier, longer lives and would have a positive impact on overall health care costs. And the state would have more money to invest in public health efforts. That would be a win all around. Thankfully the House committee that handles health-related legislation passed the bill 11-0 last week.
The next step is the Ways and Means Committee, where the legislation deserves strong support. House Speaker Brian Bosma and Gov. Eric Holcomb should help the bill’s chances by signaling support for it.
Indiana’s current tax of almost $1 a pack is among the nation’s lowest. That’s a significant contributor to an adult smoking rate that is well above the national average. Kirchhofer’s bill would push the state cigarette to the 12th highest in America.
In the tax-averse Statehouse, any tax increase can be a hard sell. It’s certainly important to be mindful of tax loads on citizens. Tax increases don’t solve all problems, and a fiscally responsible government needs to spend within its means. But this is one tax increase that has a direct impact for the good: It would save lives, improve many Hoosiers’ quality of life and help improve the state’s dismally poor health overall.
This winning idea deserves to pass.
HOUSE BILL 1578
- RAISE LEGAL AGE TO PURCHASE TOBACCO FROM 18 TO 21.
- INCREASE THE STATE CIGARETTE TAX FROM $.995 TO $2.495.