HENDERSON, Ky. – Kentucky lawmakers recently introduced legislation that wants to curb the increase in teenagers using e-cigarettes by making the products more expensive.
A House committee has passed the bill that would add a tax to e-cigarette products. The two bills would require licenses for “enhanced vapor products,” and increase taxes on tobacco products, as well as applying the tobacco tax to vapor products.
If passed, the tax is expected to raise 50 million dollars over the next two fiscal years.
House Bill 69 defines “enhanced vapor products” as vaping devices that contain flavorings and/or have a nicotine content of “four percent” or greater. Enhanced vapor products include reusable and disposable products as well as any type of device including open tank mod-styles and cartridge-based systems. Retailers of enhanced vapor products would be required to maintain annual licenses. Moreover, these products would be sold exclusively in age-restricted stores, and all sales must be in-person, essentially banning all other sales, including online, catalog, and phone sales.
House Bill 32 would apply the tobacco tax to vapor products and increase the excise tax from 15 percent to 27.5 percent of the wholesale price. The legislation also eliminates previous legislation that recognized tobacco harm reduction. HB 32 omits taxing tobacco products based on their “relative risk,” and would not recognize a reduced tax on products that have received a modified risk tobacco product application from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Although the sponsor of both bills claims this legislation will address youth vaping, overregulation and excessive taxation on vapor products reduce adult access to tobacco harm reduction products.
According to the 2019 Kentucky High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Kentucky does not have an epidemic of youth using e-cigarettes. In 2019, 73.9 percent of Kentucky high school students reported not using a vapor product in the 30 days prior to the survey. Only 8.7 percent reported daily e-cigarette use.
The Heartland Institute recently analyzed several statewide youth vaping surveys to understand the role of flavors in youth e-cigarette use. In an analysis of five states, only 15.6 percent of high school students cited using e-cigarettes because of flavors. Overwhelmingly, youth are using vapor products because a friend and/or family member had used them.
E-cigarettes and vapor products are significantly less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Numerous public health organizations, including Public Health England, Royal College of Physicians, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, American Cancer Society (ACS), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have acknowledged there is a reduced harm associated with e-cigarettes and vaping devices, compared to traditional tobacco products. ACS notes that e-cigarettes comprise a reduced risk primarily because they “do not contain or burn tobacco.”
Taxing these products at the same rate as combustible cigarettes is a disservice to public health. In fact, rather than taxing tobacco harm reduction products, lawmakers should note their use reduces current costs.
Although HB 69 does not ban the sale of vapor products, it significantly reduces adult access to such products and will forbid sales of proven tobacco harm reduction products in the same retail locations that offer combustible cigarettes.
Finally, Kentucky lawmakers should rely on existing tobacco funding for programs that can reduce youth e-cigarette use and help adults quit smoking.
Read more Vaping Policy in U.S.:
- NJ: Piscataway Vaping Ordinance Restricts Sales of E-Cigarette Products
- U.S.: Flavored E-Cigarettes Outside Tobacco, Menthol Will Be Halted Beginning February 6
- FDA Federal Minimum Age to Purchase All Tobacco Products From 18 to 21
Source: The Heartland Institute