E-cigarette advocates are fighting to prevent a swathe of anti-vaping measures under consideration by the Utah State Legislature.
Policy research senior fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research Jeff Stier says the Utah Smoke-Free Association and the Utah chapter of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) are making the case that e-cigarettes are critical to reducing the harm caused by tobacco and shouldn’t be hammered with new taxes and regulations.
“Used as a tool for harm reduction, e-cigarettes are a potential boon to public health, because the products are an appealing alternative to smoking. If activists and misguided legislators succeed in making e-cigarettes less appealing to adult smokers, the public health consequences will be severe and long-lasting,” says Stier. There are three bills in the current legislative session targeting e-cigarette producers and users.
One bill under consideration is HB0333, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray, it would raise the tax on e-cigarettes by 86.5 percent, putting them on a par with other non-cigarette tobacco products. (RELATED: Utah Vapers Could Face 86 Percent Tax Bombshell)
E-cigarettes “are not taxed now because they are relatively new and they have never been put into the tax code, or into any code, as a tobacco product,” said Ray. “It has nicotine in it, so it is a tobacco product.” E-cigarettes themselves do not contain any tobacco.
Ray claims e-cigarette producers are targeting children with certain fruit flavorings and said 10,000 high school students had signed a petition in favor of the bill.
But Shilo Platts with the Utah chapter of the SFATA, said the tax increase would be detrimental to public health:
Seeking a punitive tax on vapor products is the wrong approach. It’s time Utah embraced harm-reduction, instead of a regressive tax that pushes vapers back to combustible tobacco or one that creates a black market.
Stier agrees and says there is a way to prevent kids from getting their hands on e-cigarettes without damaging their appeal to adults who are considering quitting smoking.
“Public health advocates who believe in tobacco harm reduction are resolute that we are capable of putting into place strong youth prevention rules as well as reasonable product standards, without unduly diminishing the appeal of e-cigarettes for adult smokers,” says Stier.
“The vast majority of those who purchase e-cigarettes are adult smokers trying to quit, so discouraging the use of e-cigarettes actually incentivizes smokers to continue smoking.”
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