CHICAGO, Ill. – Indiana’s smoking laws get a near-failing grade from the American Lung Association — but it’s far from alone.
Only Maine, Vermont and California score higher than a C-plus on the Lung Associaton’s annual report card. Out of five categories, all but eight states get failing grades for what they spend to help people quit smoking. Nearly that many get F’s for their tax rate — and no state gets an A. Only three states meet the Lung Association’s standard of a tax rate double the national average, and they get docked for not taxing e-cigarettes at the same rate.
Indiana doesn’t tax vaping at all, and its cigarette tax of about a dollar a pack is just over half the national average. The state’s G-P-A works out to a D-minus — Indiana is one of 13 states to receive an F in all but one category. For Indiana, that lone passing grade is for the state’s smoke-free workplace law, though the Lung Association still faults Indiana for not covering bars and casinos.
The state is likely to move up next year. Both the House and Senate have passed bills raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes or e-cigarettes to 21. The federal government has already raised the age, but Lung Association Indiana policy director Nick Torres says the grades in that category also look at the strength of enforcement provisions. Both versions of the bill step up the penalties for retailers who sell to underage customers.
The report card also looks at insurance coverage for stop-smoking programs.
Torres says he hopes legislators raise the cigarette tax in next year’s budget, but says there are steps they could take this year which don’t raise taxes or spend money, such as banning the sale of flavored e-liquids. Only Massachusetts has done so — two Senate bills to add Indiana haven’t gotten a hearing.
Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina scored straight F’s.