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Utah’s E-Cigarette Tax ‘Boggles The Mind’ And Could Prevent Smokers Quitting

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Raising the vaping age to 21 and introducing a massive tax increase on e-cigarettes could prevent adults from quitting smoking and may harm public health, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Utah State Rep. Paul Ray is pushing to raise the tax on e-cigarettes by 86 percent and House Bill 157 would increase the age of vaping from 18 to 21. The two-pronged approach is intended to tackle a surge in teen vaping.

But according to Competitive Enterprise Institute Fellow Michelle Minton, these policies, while well-intentioned, could have unintended consequences damaging to public health.

“It is definitely correct that there has been a marked increase in the use of e-cigarettes among teens, but it has been the same with adults because it is a new product and will pick up more and more as it settles into the market,” Minton told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

There will always be a small percentage of teens that will get their hands on products intended for adults, like cigarettes and alcohol, Minton argues. The problem with boosting the e-cigarette tax is that it makes it more likely both teens and adults will stick with traditional cigarettes and while not entirely safe e-cigarettes are substantially less hazardous that tobacco cigarettes. (RELATED: Study: E-cigarettes Are 95% Safer Than Tobacco)

“The argument that electronic cigarette has nicotine and that young people become addicted to nicotine is a serious and real argument. The problem is that they are not looking at the alternative for these kids.

“If we push to teens into smoking traditional smoking they have a greater chance of becoming addicted to nicotine. Tax is a very blunt tool and is not exactly the best way to go about reducing the number of minors choosing to smoke a traditional cigarette over electronic cigarette.”

Not only might the tax reduce the appeal of using e-cigarettes vis-a-vis of traditional cigarettes but Minton points out the proposal to raise age limit to 21 will impact “adult human beings walking around the world between the ages of 18 and 21 who are currently addicted to traditional cigarettes and could make the switch over to electronic cigarette.

“They are trying to legally blocking that path, not by making it more expensive, but just preventing them from using this option. It boggles the mind that they would do this to adult citizens trying to quit smoking.”

The dangers of cigarette smoking are widely known and youth smoking has been in free fall for years. Childhood education, not adult taxation, is far superior way to tackle underage smoking and vaping, according to Minton. (RELATED: Gallup Poll Shows Smoking Rate Collapsing As E-Cigarette Use Soars)

The debate over the proposed restriction on vaping in Utah became subject of some controversy after high school students were bused into the state capitol to support the 86 percent tax rise on adult vapers. (RELATED:Children Bused In To Lobby Capitol For 86 Percent E-Cigarette Tax)

“I think I remember being in school and if someone said we were going to walk out for x-issue I would do it because it meant I got out of class for an hour or two,” said Minton.

“I don’t really know the motive of the children or the motives behind how many of them truly want the tax increase. I think it is a political stunt meant to tug at their emotions and intellect and should be ignored like any other childish proposal.”

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