Liberal Billionaire Ramps Up Campaign To Raise E-Cigarette Tax

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Billionaire liberal activist and environmentalist Tom Steyer is campaigning to raise California’s tax on both tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

A long-time fundraiser for prominent Democrats like presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, Steyer has turned his attention to making smokers and vapers cough up more money to the state.

Steyer was joined by a host of public health groups — like the American Heart Association — Wednesday at an event at the C.K. McClatchy High School in California. During the event, Steyer advocated for a $2 tax on a packet of cigarettes and is using the petition system to get it. Steyer has already donated $1 million to the cause.

All previous efforts to introduce a tobacco tax in California via ballot initiative have failed. Californians currently pay 87 cents per pack in state taxes.

“You can’t sugarcoat it: Smoking is deadly,” said Steyer at the event.“This initiative aims to save lives and stop teens from ever picking up the deadly tobacco habit in the first place.”

Tom Torlakson, the state’s superintendent of public instruction also voiced his support for the scheme, taking particular aim at e-cigarettes. “Candy-flavored products that contain nicotine derived from tobacco put teens at risk of developing a deadly, lifelong addiction to nicotine,” Torlakson said at the same event Wednesday.

Tolarkson’s fears may be misplaced as data from National Institute on Drug Abuse released in December shows that close to 60 percent of 15-18-year-olds vaped just flavorings with zero nicotine last time they used an e-cigarette. Only 20 percent said they used e-cigarettes containing nicotine.

To qualify for the November ballot, the campaign needs the signatures of 585,407 registered voters by June 13. President of the American Vaping Association Gregory Conley was unimpressed by the campaign, fearing it would harm public health.

President of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association Cynthia Cabrera, shared Conley’s hostility to the measure.

“The vapor debate should focus on getting the four million adult smokers in California to make the switch to vaping,” Cabrera said Wednesday according to the Los Angeles Times. “Attempting to tax vapor products like cigarettes is a flawed initiative and the wrong approach, potentially leading adults back to smoking cigarettes.”

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