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US – Fight a Vapor Tax (HR 5715/S 2929)
A bill, HR 5715, has been introduced that proposes raising taxes on all tobacco products to a rate equal to the tax applied to cigarettes. At the same time, the tax on cigarettes would be doubled (from $50.33 to $100.66 per 1000 cigarettes). If we’re comparing oranges to oranges, in this case milligrams of nicotine to milligrams of nicotine, cigarettes would be taxed at a rate five-times lower than vapor products. This is not consistent with calls for “risk-proportionate regulation.”
If HR 5715/S 2929 is enacted, consumers will be paying 5.5c per milligram of nicotine compared to 1.1c/mg in cigarettes (based on the average nicotine content of 9mg/cigarette across multiple brands)(NIH). The tax hike is just as bad, if not worse, for nicotine pouches, snus, and moist snuff (dip), which are all reduced risk products compared to cigarettes.
According to the FDA, serious tobacco scientists, the UK’s Royal College of Physicians, and several other international government health agencies, tobacco products exist on a “continuum of risk.” These groups are also aware that nicotine is not the source of harm. While CASAA members and other nicotine consumers are experiencing a reduction of harm by moving down the risk continuum with products like e-cigarettes, snus, and nicotine pouches, sponsors of HR 5715/S 2929 are displaying willful ignorance about the tobacco risk continuum.
SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS
- Share your experience with switching to vapor products. If affordability compared to continuing to smoke was a motivating factor for trying vaping or other smoke-free products, be sure to include that in your comments. Conversely, if the already high initial cost of these products delayed your first purchase, highlight this instead. Be sure to include any changes in your health that you’ve experienced as a result of switching to safer nicotine or tobacco products.
- Taxes on traditional cigarettes are intended to discourage use. But, e-cigarettes and other smoke-free tobacco products are estimated to be 98 – 99% less harmful than smoking, and discouraging their use is counter to the goals of reducing smoking rates.
- Other governments are taking exactly the opposite approach. Public Health England (the government public health agency) recently explicitly endorsed a policy of encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes and vapor products (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-cigarettes-an-evidence-update).
- Sin taxes are regressive. People who smoke and those who switch to vaping and other smoke-free alternatives are disproportionately poor and low income people. Sin taxes place unnecessary burdens on an already financially challenged group. To make matters worse, people in the low-income bracket are less likely to be insured and lack access to health care providers. The affordable resources available to these people have low success rates.
- Imposing a tax on these products will drive consumers to shop in neighboring jurisdictions that do not have a similar tax. Concurrently, consumers will be encouraged to shop online for better deals, sending even more money out of the community. Local businesses will not be able to compete, be forced to close their doors, and jobs will be lost. This is bad for the state and will result in less revenue, not more.
- It is important to note that vapor products are already subject to a general sales tax.
- Taxing smoke-free tobacco and nicotine products in a manner similar to how combustible tobacco products are taxed sends a confusing and inaccurate message to would-be adopters that these two very different products present similar risks. The result of this message is that more people, those that otherwise would have switched to a smoke-free product, will be encouraged to continue smoking.