Indiana’s western border towns may soon no longer be the destinations they have long been for Illinois smokers.

Currently, taxes on cigarettes in our state stand at $0.99 per pack, half that of Illinois. But there is talk in the statehouse about increasing that by a dollar, which would actually push taxes a cent higher than our westward neighbor.

Supporters are touting the potential for reducing smokers in the state. But the taxes will likely go toward fixing state roads, and to me, that seems like a more likely reason this has come up than public health. Roads are paid for through gasoline taxes, which no politician wants to raise and become the bad guy in the eyes of the public. But raising taxes on something commonly despised, like cigarettes, is often okay by most voters.

Maybe such a ban would reduce the number of smokers in Indiana. But as our state picks up this old fight, there’s some disconcerting news from the new frontier of smoking: Apparently, 70 percent of teenagers are exposed to advertising for e-cigarettes, which is not subjected to heavy restrictions like that for tobacco products. What’s more worrisome about this is that perception seems to be that e-cigs or “vaping” aren’t harmful like regular smoking (on that note, does anyone else remember vaping being advertised as a way for smokers to wean themselves of their addiction, or did I just imagine that?).

Taking on e-cigarettes today is trickier than it was for tobacco. Banning TV commercials and regulating print ads may have been a big step in yesteryear. It still might be, but the world is a little different today. The Internet and social media are enormous marketing tools, users of which tend to skew younger. Frankly, it’s hard to regulate that without getting into some free speech issues.

Short of outright criminalizing it, treating it like tobacco—mandatory warning labels, taxes, and bans in public places—and hoping for the best might be all we can do. Once a person reaches adulthood, if they still want to vape knowing the hits their health and wallet will take, it’s on them.


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