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Vapers Brace For A New Tax Treating Harm Reduction Devices As Cigarettes

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Former smokers relying on electronic cigarettes to satiate their nicotine cravings are facing a new tax that treats the harm reduction devices just like traditional cigarettes.

Under legislation passed in July, all vapor devices are now considered tobacco products by the state of Delaware, despite the fact the products heat liquid nicotine and contain no tobacco. As of Jan. 1, vapers in the state are charged a 5 cent per milliliter tax on all e-liquid purchased for their devices, reports Philadelphia Business Journal.

The levy is significantly less than a previous proposal from Democratic Gov. John Carney in April to place a 30 percent wholesale tax on liquid nicotine, which drew sharp criticism from vape shop owners who feared the tax would bankrupt their businesses.

Public health advocates focused on harm reduction, however, are critical of policies that lump vaping in with smoking, arguing that such legislative actions falsely suggest to the public that the products carry the same adverse health risks.

Ample research proves that vaping devices drastically reduce the harm caused by cigarettes, because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are released through combustion of tobacco. Public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable; however, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices.

They say policies conflating the risks of vaping with smoking, which oftentimes restrict public vaping to designated smoking areas, will dissuade adult smokers from giving the devices a chance, threatening their future health.

Researchers from the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina found that smokers who are open to trying electronic cigarettes vastly improve their chances of quitting. In the randomized study, published December in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, researchers gave 46 smokers a vaping device for three weeks without additional instructions or requirements for use, in order to create a more natural setting to evaluate the role vaping plays in smoking cessation.

Roughly 57 percent of participants who were given vaping devices containing a high dose of nicotine (24 mg) went on to buy a vape for themselves. They also reported smoking fewer cigarettes and engaging in more attempts to quit than the control group, which did not receive e-cigarettes.

“Alternative delivery of nicotine, through e-cigarettes, could significantly reduce harm and the risks of cancer and other diseases to smokers,” Dr. Matthew Carpenter of the Hollings Cancer Center said in a statement. “The results are consistent with trials done outside the U.S. Many people rated the e-cigarettes similar to their usual product, which further suggests that these products might promote switching. Anything that gets smokers off combustible cigarettes is a good thing.”

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 smokers quit across the country.

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