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Bill to tax e-cigarettes a step in right direction

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

A bill has been filed in the 2020 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly to impose an excise tax on the sale of e-cigarettes.

A new poll from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky found the vast majority of Kentucky adults favor such a tax on e-cigarettes, bringing them in line with cigarette taxes in Kentucky.

According to a 2019 Kentucky Health Issues Poll released this month, 75 percent of adults in Kentucky support a tax on e-cigarettes.

Currently, e-cigarettes are the only nicotine-containing product sold in Kentucky not subject to an excise tax.

Support for an excised tax has increased since the foundation last polled Kentuckians about the issue in 2014. In that poll, 53 percent favored such a tax.

A bill introduced by Rep. Jerry T. Miller would tax e-cigs at 27.5% of their wholesale price, which is parallel to Kentucky’s $1.10/pack cigarette tax.

The Coalition for Smoke-Free Tomorrow estimates such a tax would generate an estimated $34 million its first year. Additionally, the coalition predicts a 10% increase in price would reduce disposable e-cig sales by approximately 12% and reusable e-cig sales by 19%.

E-cigarette use has surged in recent years, especially among young people.

According to the KHIP, 26% of Kentucky adults have tried an e-cigarette and 9% reported currently using e-cigarettes every day or some days.

However, e-cigarettes are much more popular among young people, with more than half (53%) of high school seniors having tried an e-cigarette in 2019, up from 44% in 2015, according to the Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Additionally, the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention survey reveals 26.7% of the state’s high-school seniors reported they had vaped in the past 30 days in 2018, up from 12.2% in the 2016 survey. Use by sophomores, or 10th-graders, increased to 23.2% from 11.3%; use by eighth-graders jumped to 14.2% from 7.3%; and sixth-grader use increased to 4.2% from 2.3% over 2016.

A Surgeon General’s report indicates raising prices on cigarettes is “one of the most effective tobacco control interventions,” especially among teens.

According to TobaccoFreeKids.org, “The general consensus is that nationally, every 10% increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces adult smoking by about 2%, reduces smoking among young adults by about 3.5%, reduces the number of kids who smoke by 6-7%, and reduces overall cigarette consumption by approximately 3-5%.”

If taxes and increased prices have proven effective for cigarette use, they will undoubtedly work to curb e-cig use as well.

Vaping and e-cigarette use is disproportionally and negatively affecting Kentucky’s young people.

According to the CDC, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine — the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products. And nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain, the CDC reports.

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol contains other additives that can be dangerous.

The CDC found aerosol vapors could contain “ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease; volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead.”

The CDC also reports some defective e-cigarette batteries have caused fires and explosions that have caused serious injuries.

Sadly, most Kentuckians, especially youth, are not aware of the dangers of e-cigs and vaping.

A tax that falls in line with that implemented for other tobacco products only makes sense.

And while a $35 million addition to the General Fund would be welcome, the ultimate goal would be that people would stop using e-cigarettes.

Revenue from the tax could and should go toward educational programs in schools and a statewide campaign about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping. Funding could also be used to research the rapidly-increasing trend.

In conjunction with other legislation aimed at reducing tobacco use in Kentucky, we believe this excise tax will be a critical tool to reducing e-cigarette use among our youth.