An issues that’s proven to be divisive before is being taken up again by a legislative study committee.
Legislators heard testimony Tuesday on several tobacco-related issues, including whether to expand the state’s smoking ban and include e-cigarettes in the law.
Passionate voices on both sides of the argument testified during the hearing. Public health advocates argued Indiana’s smoking ban should be expanded to include bars, casinos and private clubs.
“In Indiana the annual healthcare costs due to smoking total $2.9 billion with another $3.1 billion spent in lost productivity,” said Miranda Spitznagle, Director of the Indiana State Department of Health’s Prevention And Cessation Committee.
Several bar owners also testified during the hearing, saying the current ban is already hard enough on small businesses.
“When there was still smoking and then it went to non-smoking for one year I lost 16.28 percent,” says Bar Owner Jane Johnston. “The second year, another 10.46 percent.”
Expanding the smoking ban is just one of a long list of measures the study committee is looking into.
According to the Indiana State Department of Health, about 23 percent of Hoosier adults smoke – that’s higher than the national average of 18 percent.
Legislators are trying to determine the best way to bring that number down.
In addition to the smoking ban, they’re considering changes to the way e-cigarettes are regulated and whether they should be taxed like traditional tobacco products.
Legislation passed last session imposes bottling and labeling requirements for those who manufacture e-liquids used in the devices, but does little to regulate the e-cigarettes themselves.
Indy E Cigs customer Justin Meier told us earlier this year e-cigarettes shouldn’t be regulated like traditional tobacco products because they aren’t.
“Seems excessive to me,” he said. “It’s a cessation method, despite what some people say.”
Proposals to include e-cigarettes in the state’s smoking ban and impose an excise tax on the products didn’t make it through the legislature earlier this year, but the study committee heard testimony on both issues.
They’ll meet again at the end of the month.