E-Cig Tax Will Reduce Use Among Youth and Pregnant Women, Coalition Says

A bill to tax e-cigarettes the same as traditional, combustible cigarettes in Kentucky will help reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic, the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow said today. 

Coalition members and Chair Ben Chandler joined Rep. Jerry T. Miller of Louisville, Rep. Kim Moser of Taylor Mill, and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jeff Howard in Frankfort today to announce the bill, which would add an excise tax on the sale of e-cigarettes sold in Kentucky of 27.5 percent of the wholesale price. That amount is parallel to the current tax on cigarettes of $1.10 per pack.

Currently, e-cigarettes are the only tobacco product not subject to a state excise tax in Kentucky. 

“Adding an excise tax onto the price of e-cigarettes in Kentucky will serve the dual purpose of reducing vaping among teens and pregnant mothers, while also raising badly needed revenue for the state,” said Rep. Miller, in announcing the legislation. “Kentucky desperately needs new revenue to pay our retirement obligations, and the 2020 session will be the third in a row in which I have sponsored a bill intended to help accomplish that goal.” 

“This is a health improvement bill for all Kentuckians, and especially pre-teens, teens, young adults and pregnant women,” Chandler said. “Raising the price of tobacco products is a core policy for reducing tobacco use. And youth and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to price increases, so this bill will benefit their health the most. Given the current youth epidemic and worrisome increases in e-cigarette use among pregnant women – even while cigarette smoking continues to decline – there is no rational reason that e-cigs shouldn’t be treated the same as cigarettes under Kentucky’s tax laws.” 

The rate of e-cigarette use swelled by more than 100 percent among Kentucky high school students and by nearly 100 percent among middle schoolers over the last two years, according to the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention survey. As a result, more than one in four Kentucky 12th graders and one in seven 8th graders were using e-cigs in 2018. Health experts say that e-cigarettes are particularly dangerous for children and youth, whose brains are still developing and are especially susceptible to nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco products. Research also shows that e-cigarettes can deliver as much nicotine as traditional cigarettes; another recent study shows that nicotine levels can vary widely among products and that labeled amounts are often inaccurate. 

E-cigarette use among women who are pregnant across the nation is as high as 15 percent and also is increasing, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nicotine and flavorings in e-cigarettes are poisonous to developing babies’ brains, as well as their lungs and other organ systems. 

“Much of this increase is due to newer e-cigarette products that use highly addictive nicotine salts and contain harmful chemicals,” said Dr. Jeff Howard, Kentucky’s Public Health Commissioner. “I applaud the efforts by Rep. Miller, along with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, and look forward to continuing our work together to decrease smoking, tobacco and e-cigarette use.” 

The Miller/Moser bill would cover vapor products as well as other tobacco products, including snuff and chewing tobacco, raising the excise tax on those to match the cigarette tax rate. The new rates would go into effect July 31, 2020. Estimated annual revenue from the bill would total $35 million. 

Rep. Kim Moser, a cosponsor of the bill, said: “With the popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping products on the rise among high school and middle school students, it is imperative that we look for ways to curb this and any future addictions to nicotine and other drugs. Taxes on cigarettes were raised by $0.50 per pack in 2018, while e-cigarettes went unnoticed. Our goal with this legislation is to help prevent the damaging health effects of smoking or the use of tobacco and nicotine in any form.” 

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, who will file a companion measure in the Kentucky Senate, said, “This is very simply a parity issue that aims to decrease e-cigarette use and increase health outcomes in the Commonwealth.”

A copy of the bill language is available here.

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