by Steve Birr
Proponents of a new tax on electronic cigarettes are blaming the devices for tobacco use among children and claim they are contributing to the “tobacco epidemic.”
Proposition 56 in California will hike the state’s tobacco tax from 87 cents to $2.87. The ballot would also allow the state government to begin taxing e-cigarette sales for the first time, which opponents argue harms an industry helping smokers quit. Many experts warn that other states will follow suit if California is successful and worry it could devastate the vaping industry, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
If the ballot initiatives win, e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine will be taxed as if it were a traditional tobacco product.
“Electronic cigarettes are extending and expanding the tobacco epidemic,” Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at UCSF, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “They are bringing a whole new group of kids into the tobacco market who would never start cigarettes.”
Evidence that e-cigarette use is turning another generation of children into cigarette smokers is thin. The United Kingdom actually promotes the sale of e-cigarettes as a health conscious alternative to smoking. Evidence suggests e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than traditional cigarettes, because the majority of cancer causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke. A study found that nearly all of the 2.6 million e-cigarette users in the U.K. are former or current smokers, many using the device to quit, according to the R Street Institute.
The same study showed only a small portion of adults and teens who have never smoked become regular e-cigarette users.
In North Dakota, voters will decide on Measure 4, which would increase the current tobacco tax from 44 cents to $2.20 and add a new tax on electronic cigarettes, while other tobacco products would experience a roughly 50 percent tax increase on sales in the states.
Proponents of tax hikes argue it’s necessary to dissuade people from smoking cigarettes, but the smoking rate in California is 12 percent, the second lowest rate in the country. Additionally, the 400 percent tobacco tax increase proposed in North Dakota would be the state’s largest single tax increase in history.