A Republican lawmaker in Utah attempted to push through a 86.5 percent tax on vapor products, claiming the devices are creating an “epidemic” among teens.
State Rep. Paul Ray argued at a committee hearing Wednesday that the devices are just another way for the tobacco industry to addict a new generation to their products, echoing the language of tobacco controllers who claim the products serve as a gateway to combustible cigarettes. He dramatically stated during the hearing, “We have an epidemic among our youth, and its called electronic cigarettes,” reported Deseret News.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey, released Dec. 14, shows reported cigarette use among 12th graders fell to 4.2 percent this year, down from 24.6 percent in 1997, even as the number of youth experimenting with vaping devices increased.
Vape shop owners blasted the proposal during the hearing, saying to would essentially bankrupt the entire e-cigarette industry in Utah.
“Please tell me…any business in the state of Utah that can absorb an 86 percent tax on durable goods they bring in and still survive,” said Brad Parsons, owner of the VaporLoc vaping store, according to Deseret News. “It can’t happen.”
The committee ultimately rejected the massive 86.5 percent tax, amending the proposal to a 29 percent tax on vapor products, the same rate applied to cigarettes. The 29 percent tax hike will now be considered by the full House after the measure passed in the committee with a 7-5 vote.
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.
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.
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