Utah could soon become the latest state to implement an insane tax on vaping products under the guise of protecting youth, but they could be making things worse.
In the first couple of years that vaping was super popular, a glaring problem for the industry was a relative lack of peer-reviewed information on the harm reduction and smoking cessation value e-cigarettes offer. That’s much less of an issue these days, with years of evidence backing the benefits of vaping. However, the debate is far from over, with experts still fighting over how to regulate vaping and protect the youth from unnecessary exposure properly. That being said, even staunch critics of the vaping industry, such as FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, agree that e-cigarettes are much safer than cigarettes, and shouldn’t be regulated by the same set of rules.
Unfortunately, it seems many states haven’t heard this suggestion, or they simply don’t care, as lawmakers in Utah once again proposed an absurd 86.5% tax on all vaping products sold in the state. Despite the same tax being compromised down to 29% and ultimately shot down altogether last year, experts believe this year things could be very different. The vaping community is fighting back, slamming lawmakers as primarily using vaping as a scapegoat to supplement their growing budgetary problem. Especially in the light of evidence which indicates these types of popular regulations could be working against their intended goals.
Utah’s Proposed Tax
The 86.5% tax was proposed once again by Representative Paul Ray (R), who made the same pitch last session. He once again claimed the right path of action is treating vaping “exactly the same as we do other tobacco products,” regardless of what researchers have to say on the topic. As mentioned, even “anti” vaping officials like Dr. Gottlieb fully admit the value vaping offers compared with smoking. While they feel vaping could be dangerous if not properly regulated, they also understand the role vaping could play as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. At the same time, similar taxes have been tried in states like Pennsylvania to disastrous results, with over 25% of their independently owned vape shops closing just a year after passing a relatively tame 40% wholesale tax.
Regardless, legislators like Rep. Ray seem convinced taxing vaping the same as deadly smoking is the correct path. It’s been presented as primarily a way to combat the growing teenage vaping “epidemic,” but the truth seems a lot shadier. According to reports, only 10% of the generated tax revenue from the proposal would go toward funding tobacco prevention programs, with the remaining 90% going straight to the general allocation fund for the state. It’s clear legislators like Rep. Ray, and those who support his proposal, are merely using protecting the youth as a means of getting more money into their yearly budget.
What The Research Says
While legislators like Rep. Ray would have you believe there’s a growing number of teens who are ending up smokers because of vaporizers, the statistics prove this is far from the case. Aside from continually dropping teenage smoking rates alongside the growth of vaping, a report of over 60,000 students concluded only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are picking up vaporizers regularly. That means less than 0.1% of non-smoking teens are ever even trying a cigarette because of vaping, let alone becoming a lifelong smoker. At the same time, it seems that popular vaping regulations aimed at preventing teen smoking may actually be making things worse. A study conducted by Dr. John Buckell of Yale University concluded that when vaping flavor bans are passed, it helps Big Tobacco sales, as vapers lose their preferred options.
The value is even more evident when you look into the evidence for harm reduction. Back in 2015, a report by Public Health England concluded that not only is vaping safer than smoking, but it’s at least 95% safer. While this type of figure made waves at the time, these days it’s much more common. Even a few months back we got another report which found e-liquid vapor contains around 93% fewer toxicants than cigarette smoke. But the most impressive finding is likely from a report published in the Journal of Aerosol Sciences which concluded the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is around 57,000 times lower than a demographically similar smoker.
Instead of doing their job and working to understand the right way to regulate vaping, legislators in Utah and elsewhere have shown they’re more interested in shirking their responsibilities and using the same regulations on vaping and smoking. Virtually all experts can agree that vaping and smoking are simply not the same and have no business being regulated identically. Sadly it appears that once again vaping is being used as a scapegoat for increased tax revenue without raising income tax. Meanwhile, smoking continues to kill more people every year than any other preventable cause. So we have to ask ourselves why are we really undermining one of our best tools instead of supporting it?
Are you surprised Utah is once again trying to implement such a harsh tax? Do you think it’s fair for legislators to use vaping as a scapegoat? What’s the best way to spread positive information about vaping to those around us? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.