Blocking Indiana cigarette tax hike frustrates advocates

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Supporters of the Indiana cigarette tax increase on Friday expressed frustration with Republicans in the state Senate to drop any increase in their budget proposal from the ‘Status published next week.

The removal of the 50 cent per packet increase that was included in the House budget bill is the latest rejection of a cigarette tax hike by Republicans who dominate the Senate. For several years, they have blocked any increase from the current rate of 99.5 cents per packet which was last increased in 2007.

A coalition of health and business groups lobbied for a $ 2 per pack increase, calling it a necessary step to lower Indiana’s adult smoking rate by 21.1%, which was the fourth highest in the country for 2018, according to federal centers. for disease control and prevention.

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar argued that “it comes down to the fact that decision-makers in the Senate Majority Caucus are just not looking at it from the right point of view.”

Brinegar said Senators weighed the tax increase on whether it was needed for the budget rather than using it to reduce smoking.

“The reason we advocate this is to reduce our smoking rate, because it has been shown, study after study, that raising the tax on tobacco products is the best way to reduce the smoking rate,” said Brinegar.

Republican Senate Speaker Pro Tem Rodric Bray said on Thursday that the cigarette tax increase was being removed from the budget plan because it did not have enough support among GOP senators.

“If we go for a tax like this – and we could very well do that someday – then we want to make sure that this is really going to shake things up on some of the health metrics that we really need to get this far.” than health. Hoosiers are going, ”Bray said. “And I guess I felt, and a number of our caucus members, that we probably weren’t quite there to do it yet.”

Bray said Senate Republicans support a new state tax on vaping liquids. Bray said this should be similar to the taxes currently imposed on cigarettes, but did not give details.

The 50-cent per pack increase is expected to generate around $ 150 million in tax revenue, while the House’s proposal for a 10% retail sales tax on e-cigarette liquids is expected to generate around $ 5 million per year. This proposed cigarette tax increase had already been reduced from the $ 1 per pack increase approved by the House health committee.

Bryan Hannon, an American Cancer Society lobbyist, said anti-smoking groups will continue to push for the increase in the cigarette tax even if it fails again this year.

“As we have been saying for many years, the cigarette tax is more than a tax policy – it is the best and most effective health policy-makers can support in the short term,” he said. declared Hanno.

A vaping product tax proposal failed in the final days of the 2019 legislative session – and Brinegar said health and business groups could oppose the tax this year if it is too low .

“We might end up supporting this as a small step in the right direction, or if it’s not important enough that we end up spending our last three weeks fighting to oppose it as well,” said Brinegar.

The state chamber estimates that smoking costs Indiana employers $ 6.2 billion a year in higher health care costs, absenteeism and lost productivity.

“That’s $ 6.2 billion a year that is just flushed down the toilet,” Brinegar said. “It’s not there for salaries, benefits, to pay for training to keep our workforce competitive, or for plant equipment and machine upgrades that also keep our competitive businesses. “

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