Out of Control Policy Blog

Proposed WA & NJ E-Cigarette Taxes Would Perpetuate Smoking

In a new Reason.org column, I write that the proposed e-cigarette taxes currently being discussed in final budget negotiations Washington State—as well as those proposed by Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey—are counterproductive to public health, unjust and unfair in their application, and economically harmful to a rapidly growing market of entrepreneurs, manufacturers and retailers specializing in e-cigarette products. Here's an excerpt:

Washington State and New Jersey are currently considering budget proposals that would impose additional taxes on e-cigarettes. These taxes would discourage smokers from switching, thereby ensuring that many more people continue to smoke cigarettes, which are far more harmful.

Washington State’s proposal, coming down to the wire amid the flurry of budget negotiations today and tomorrow in advance of the end of the legislative session on Thursday, would impose steep taxes in proportion to the nicotine level of vapor liquid. The premise, presumably, is that nicotine itself is harmful. But there is little evidence to support this premise. Meanwhile, heavy smokers require the high nicotine levels when they switch, so a tax that is proportional to nicotine levels would most discourage the very people who most need to switch.

The real reason for these taxes is to raise revenue. But both Washington State and New Jersey already impose sales taxes on e-cigarettes, e-liquids (the liquid “vaped” in e-cigarettes), batteries and other related products, so additional taxes seem disproportionate and punitive.

Read the whole thing here.

On a related note, this interesting Metro article from last November caught my eye tonight. Key excerpt (emphasis mine):

E-cigarettes are almost completely free of health risks, and could save millions of lives, agreed health experts at a London summit to discuss the effects of the device. [...]

We can recommend that smokers who cannot quit should switch to e-cigarettes,” said leading researcher Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos of the University Hospital Gathuisberg, Belgium. The risks were less than 1/1000th of smoking tobacco, he told Metro.

Dr. Farsalinos added that the devices were the most effective tools to quit smoking. “The best alternative before was around 20% [...] In my research up to 80% of participants using e-cigarettes have quit.” Medical journal The Lancet also found that e-cigarettes were more effective than Nicorette gum and patches.

Nonetheless, greedy and myopic politicians still want to ban and tax these products. 

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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