Health

A southern Indiana lawmaker and state’s attorney general on Friday introduced aggressive anti-smoking and e-cigarette legislation.

State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said the legislation would expand Indiana’s existing state-wide smoking ban, adding e-cigarettes while improving their regulations.

“Essentially, we’re defining e-cigarettes as a tobacco product,” said Clere, who is chairman of the state’s House Public Health Committee. For example, currently regulations allow vapor shops to sell e-cigs without a tobacco retail certificate. The proposed legislation would require one.

It would also tax e-cigarettes at 24 percent of the wholesale price, treating them like other tobacco products while also requiring child resistance packaging, said Clere.

Revenue from the e-cigarette tax would be used for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, he said. Indiana has a 21.9 percent smoking rate, according to the America’s Health rankings. The legislation would also ban selling cigarettes at retailers that have pharmacies, like Wal-Mart and Walgreens.

“There’s an inherent conflict there of selling tobacco products in what has effectively become a healthcare setting,” said Clere. The legislation would also expand Indiana’s state-wide smoking ban to all state owned property, including fair grounds and parks, and repeal a current exemption for casinos.

Clere said there’s likely to be a discussion in the upcoming legislative session about land-based gaming (currently you can gamble on the Ohio River).

Clere said he expects opposition to the proposal.

“More than anything, though, I expect it’s going to start an important conversation,” Clere said.