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Indiana Lawmakers Argue Over How to Control Recent Surge in Smoking

The latest reports reveal that 23 percent of adults in Indiana are smokers. With smoking rates climbing well above the national average, the state’s legislative committee is considering new measures to discourage people from using tobacco. At a recent public hearing, lawmakers debated a variety of potential ideas ranging from tax increases, more stringent smoking rules, and even bans on electronic cigarettes.

While public smoking is outlawed in most restaurants and public shopping malls, Indiana’s bars and casinos are still fair game for smokers who want to light up. Some lawmakers believe it’s time to ban smoking everywhere, even in adult-only locations. Others believe it would actually do more harm than good by damaging the economy and even forcing some businesses to close down for good.

Another suggested approach would be a tax increase to raise the cost of smoking. This could potentially make cigarettes less accessible to the poor and it would also potentially discourage teens from taking up the tobacco habit because it would be unaffordable.

Other legislators argued that ecigarettes were contributing to the high smoking rates. Some wanted to see ecigs banned in all places where smoking is prohibited and maybe a new ecig tax to increase the price of vaping. But ecig supporters argued that vaping is a positive alternative for tobacco-users to help them escape a lifetime tobacco addiction. They believe it would be counterproductive to make ecigs less available to smokers who are trying to quit. “Every time a smoker switches to these products, the public health benefits,” explained Greg Conley, President of the American Vaping Association.

Other ecig supporters shared their own personal success stories of how they used vaping as a tool to quit smoking. Shadi Khouri praised his ecig as the only smoking cessation tool that ever worked for him. Evan McMahon, chairman of Indiana’s Hoosier Vapers, urged lawmakers to embrace ecigs for their potential to reduce smoking rates. “Instead of adding a tax, the state of Indiana should be embracing and rewarding people for switching to vaping,” McMahon said.

But many health advocates urged lawmakers to crack down on ecigs until further research is available. Brianna Herndon from the American Cancer Society said we just don’t know enough about ecigs yet to present them to people as a safe smoking alternative. “Let me be clear. These products are not approved cessation devices, and there’s a lack of evidence to date demonstrating that e-cigarette products are safe.”

But McMahon argued that since ecigs are tobacco-free, they should not be lumped into the same category as cigarettes. The only thing ecigs have in common with cigarettes is nicotine. “It’s like calling pizza a vegetable because it has tomatoes in it,” said McMahon.

Do you think ecigs should be taxed like tobacco products? Will this ultimately do more harm than good or will it actually reduce Indiana’s smoking rate?

Electronic Cigarettes • April 5, 2017

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