Lawmakers could pass first-ever e-cig tax in final budget vote Thursday

INDIANAPOLIS (Network Indiana) — The budget deal awaiting a final vote on Thursday includes Indiana’s first-ever tax on e-cigarettes.

Both the House and Senate had floated an extra 10-percent sales tax on e-liquids, but the final bill jacks that up to 15-percent. Prepackaged cartridges like Juul will be taxed at 25-percent at the wholesale level.

Health advocates say the plan meets their goal of a tax rate comparable to the rate on traditional cigarettes. Indiana State Medical Association president Roberto Darroca says doctors are particularly concerned about discouraging teenagers from taking up vaping so they don’t get a taste for nicotine and move on to traditional cigarettes.

The Senate had flirted with the idea of taxing Juul-style cartridges based on the amount of liquid they contained. Darroca says that would have been a mistake, and says negotiators did the right thing in basing the taxes on price. Because Juul cartridges contain a fraction of the liquid sold for open systems, Darroca says a volume tax would have blown up the goal of making the vaping tax comparable to taxes on traditional tobacco products.

The Indiana Chamber had gone farther, blasting the volume-based tax as worse than doing nothing. President Kevin Brinegar says the Chamber supports the final version as a “big step” for public health, though he and Darroca both say they’re disappointed the Senate blocked a proposed cigarette tax hike.