INDIANAPOLIS — Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, is proposing legislation to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes as well as raising the age at which Hoosiers can buy tobacco products.
If passed, House Bill 1380 would raise the state’s cigarette tax by as much as $2 per pack and would increase the current age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Brown has also authored House Bill 1381 in the past year in order to remove exemptions from facilities which still allow smoking indoors.
“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. 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 we reduced the number of Hoosiers who smoke.
Business leaders agree that their companies would benefit in reduced health costs if their employees quit using tobacco products, Matthews said, citing research done by Bellwether.
Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said that while he does not usually strive to be simply average, if Indiana could drop their smoking rate down to just the U.S. average, Hoosier businesses would save billions of dollars. Currently, the rate of smokers in Indiana is nearly 50 percent above the national average.
Brinegar is a founding member of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, and is working alongside members of the chamber to help Indiana quit smoking and make Indiana a more attractive place to do business.