State Representatives Ed Clere (R-Ind.) and Charlie Brown (R-Ind.) are cosponsoring a bill in the legislative session that begins Tuesday that would raise taxes on electronic cigarettes. These efforts coincide with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s campaign to tax and regulate the products as well.
According to Rep. Clere, the tax “would be 24 percent of whatever the wholesale price is,”which would mean electronic cigarettes and vapor products would be subjected to the same taxes as smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products.
As we’ve noted before, electronic cigarettes should not be taxed the same as traditional tobacco. These products do not contain tobacco and should not be treated as such.
Attorney General Zoeller is spearheading efforts in the state to regulate and tax the products. In his attempt to “save the kids” from electronic cigarettes, Zoeller (and legislators who support the Clere-Brown legislation) are using the heavy hand of government to pick winners and losers. By raising the cost of these products, the legislature would create an incentive for people to continue smoking traditional tobacco.
An NBC affiliate in NBC pointed out, “The hope is the price increase will make the product less appealing to price-conscious youth.” Unfortunately, this narrow-minded approach neglects that adult smokers are overwhelmingly low and middle-income consumers, many of which spend a quarter of their income on cigarettes. Despite the fact that four out of five people who smoke want to quit, not all are able to and price increases on effective smoking cessation devices like electronic cigarettes make little sense.
It’s not just kids who may decide to opt for cigarettes instead; it’s also all of the smokers in Indiana who may want to finally quit their unhealthy habit. This is bad tax policy and will hurt decades of efforts to curb smoking.
The free market has provided a solution to decades of failures by public health advocates to get people to quit smoking; electronic cigarettes and vapor products are working, unlike tax hikes and public service announcements. Using the heavy hand of the government to keep smokers smoking cigarettes is a distasteful approach to tax policy, especially in an overwhelmingly Republican-run state like Indiana.
We urge the legislature to reject tax hikes on electronic cigarettes.