Our View: Tax on e-cigs makes sense

Published 10:10 am Thursday, July 25, 2019

We support a recently-proposed bill that would bring the tax on e-cigarettes and other vaping products in line with the tax on tobacco products in Kentucky.

The bill was proposed by Reps. Jerry Miller and Kim Moser and would place a 27.5 percent excise tax on all e-cigarettes. That tax would equal the $1.10 tax already in place per pack of cigarettes.

According to an Associated Press report, Miller argues that the bill would be beneficial for Kentuckians health-wise, but would also generate about $35 million a year for the general fund.

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The proposal comes after nearly five years of skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes, especially among teens in Kentucky.

Teenage use of e-cigarettes and vaping products has doubled in the last year, according to the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention Survey released in April.

There has been a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students, from 11.7 percent in 2017 to 20.8 percent nationwide in 2018.

In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students currently used e-cigarettes, making e-cigs the most popular form of tobacco products among teens. E-cigarettes are more than twice as popular (20.8 percent) as cigarettes (8.1 percent) and almost three times as popular at smokeless tobacco (5.9 percent) among teens.

A Surgeon General’s warning issued in 2018 reported that e-cigarettes surfaced around 2007, and since 2014, they have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth, and those rates continue to rise.

Research suggests raising the price of tobacco products proved effective, and we believe a similar tax on e-cigarettes would also be effective.

A Surgeon General’s report indicates raising prices on cigarettes is, “one of the most effective tobacco control interventions,” especially among teens.

According to TobaccoFreeKids.org, “The general consensus is that nationally, every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces adult smoking by about two percent, reduces smoking among young adults by about 3.5 percent, reduces the number of kids who smoke by six or seven percent, and reduces overall cigarette consumption by approximately three to five percent.”

If taxes and increased prices have proven effective for cigarette use, they will undoubtedly work to curb e-cig use as well.

The only way to truly know if such a tax will work is to implement it and study the impacts — it would be worth the trouble to see some potential health benefits for the Kentuckians.

According to the CDC, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine — the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products. And nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain, the CDC reports.

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol contains other additives that can be dangerous.

The CDC found aerosol vapors could contain “ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease; volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead.”

The CDC also reports some defective e-cigarette batteries have caused fires and explosions that have caused serious injuries.

Sadly, most Kentuckians, especially youth, are not aware of the dangers of e-cigs and vaping.

A tax that falls in line with that implemented for other tobacco products only makes sense.

And while a $35 million addition to the General Fund would be welcome, the ultimate goal would be that people would stop using e-cigarettes. Revenue from the tax could and should go toward educational programs in the schools and a statewide campaign about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping. Funding could also be used to research the rapidly-increasing trend.

While seeing any significant reduction in e-cigarette use will require a multi-pronged approach, this proposed tax would be one critical tool to reduce e-cig use.