Residents of a popular Colorado tourist town voted Tuesday to approve onerous new taxes on tobacco and related products, including electronic cigarettes.
Preliminary unofficial results from the election Tuesday reveal that roughly 74 percent of residents in Aspen, Colo., approved the tobacco proposal, which will make the products vastly more expensive in the city. The new taxes, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018, will increase the price of a pack of cigarettes by $3, with the tax increasing by 10 percent annually until the it reaches $4, reports Aspen Daily News Online.
A 40 percent tax will be applied to all vapor products and smokeless tobacco, despite their vastly different risk profile compared to cigarettes. Officials say the tax is not about revenue, but rather is aimed at curbing smoking rates among teens and discouraging them from ever using tobacco and nicotine products.
Ample research proves that e-cigarettes drastically reduce the harm caused by combustible tobacco and are actually helping reduce smoking levels in the U.S. at a historic pace. Public health experts focused on harm reduction say officials looking to reduce the population of smokers should be expanding access to vapor products, not restricting it.
The looming 40 percent tax is likely to devastate the town’s vaping industry and make the products much more expensive for users, many of which are former smokers who rely on the devices for their daily nicotine fix.
While public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices. In Pennsylvania, where a 40 percent tax on vapor products went into effect in October 2016, at least 120 stores have been forced to close their doors.
Smokers looking to quit in Pennsylvania are increasingly having difficulty finding easy access to vapor products. Instead of encouraging smokers to make a health-conscious choice, officials in Pennsylvania are forcing residents to fall back on traditional tobacco products to satiate their addiction.
“One thing I hear a lot is people saying ‘I couldn’t get nothing [vape juice] out there, so I ended up buying cigarettes,'” Shane King, a manager at Love Vape in Philadelphia, told The Philadelphia Citizen. “They couldn’t find coils for their devices, that kind of thing. It happens a lot.”
Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes, namely that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of American smokers quit combustible tobacco. Roughly 2.62 million former smokers were using a vape in 2016.
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