On behalf of National Taxpayers Union (NTU), the nation’s oldest taxpayer advocacy organization, I write to express our strong opposition to HB 1444. This misguided legislation would impose a significant tax on products that help traditional tobacco users transition to less harmful vapor and alternative tobacco products. If lawmakers approve the $2.5 million tax increase contained in HB 1444, it would lead to reduced health outcomes, hurt small businesses, and require consumers to pay more for safer alternatives. We urge you to stand with taxpayers and reject this misconceived tax hike.
As you may be aware, vapor products contain no tobacco; they contain nicotine without the harmful chemicals found in traditional tobacco products. Therefore it is concerning that HB 1444 attempts to lump vapor products into the same category as other tobacco products. Subjecting vapor and e-cigarettes to even higher tax rates compared to cigarettes would be an ill-advised approach to addressing public health concerns for tobacco users. If HB 1444 is approved, and a tax rate twice that of cigarettes is applied to vapor products, it would directly harm many Indianans, particularly lower and middle-income tobacco users who wish to switch to products that may improve their health and well-being.
This legislation is proposed at a time when scientific literature is coalescing around the fact that vaping is significantly less harmful than traditional combustible cigarettes. A recent study has shown vaping can reduce the harm associated with smoking by as much as 95 percent, and can be as much as twice as effective as gum or patches to help users quit. It is growing ever clearer that vapor products are an innovative and effective bridge for smokers transitioning toward significantly less harmful alternatives. For years, government officials have taken steps to reduce the prevalence of tobacco usage, and the free market has produced a solution to address this serious problem. Support for policies that raise barriers for people to access healthier alternatives, as HB 1444 proposes to do, will simply derail efforts to lower health care costs and reduce government spending.
Due to the many problems with HB 1444, NTU strongly believes this proposal would harm Indiana consumers far more than it would help them. Accordingly, we encourage you to keep these concerns in mind as you work toward a more fiscally responsible future for Indiana taxpayers and consumers.
Policy and Government Affairs Associate