Scare Tactics Push Voters to Tax Vaping in California
Voters in California approved a ballot measure that raises the tax on cigarettes by $2.00 a pack. The state’s Proposition 56 included e-cigarettes, which left voters with no choice but to vote for e-cigarettes to be taxed if they wanted to vote for a tobacco tax hike.
Though it’s impossible to know if individual voters were happy about the e-cigarette tax or not, statistics have shown than many people do see e-cigarettes and vaping as “as bad or worse” than smoking. And counting e-cigarettes as “tobacco products” has become common at all levels of government. The Food and Drug Administration considers e-cigarettes to be tobacco products, even though in actual fact, they are not.
The new taxes were opposed by tobacco companies, which spent more than twice as much money trying to defeat the initiative as supporters spent trying to get it passed. The spokeswoman for “No on 56”, a campaign that encouraged voters to reject the proposition, said that most of the money garnered if it passed would go to health insurance companies and not to anti-smoking efforts. The campaign also said that high tobacco taxes have the most negative effect on low income families, as people with lower-income are more likely to be smokers.
The e-cigarette and vaping industry was left frustrated by the situation. E-cigarettes heat liquid to produce vapor and give someone who is a using one an experience similar to smoking. The liquid usually contains nicotine, but using an e-cigarette or vaporizers does not involve burning or smoke.
There is little medical evidence on the long-term use of e-cigarettes since the devices have only been available in the United States for about 10 years, but there is also no medical evidence that short-term use does any harm. Despite this fact, scare tactics and fear of the unknown have caused many people to assume that e-cigarette use is as dangerous as smoking. An entire anti-vaping culture has been created seemingly due to a psychological reaction to smoking and anything that resembles it. Unlike nicotine gums and patches, which deliver nicotine but have no other similarity to cigarettes, e-cigarettes are to many just cigarettes with a battery. Despite science that has found no harm in e-cigarettes and evidence that they improve the health of smokers, lawmakers have been quick to ban and tax e-cigarettes as easily as they ban and tax tobacco products.
The vaping industry and supporters of e-cigarettes say that the passage of Proposition 56 will now make it harder for smokers who want to quit to afford e-cigarettes. While nicotine gums, patches and other methods of FDA-approved smoking cessation methods have failed to help many smokers quit, these pharmaceutical company products continue to be readily available with full approval from the government and anti-smoking groups. E-cigarettes, often sold by small retail shops, are not FDA approved and are classified in the same category as cigarettes. While no one can state with any certainty that e-cigarettes work better than other smoking cessation methods, there is much anecdotal evidence as well as statements from health experts worldwide that they do, in fact, help people quit smoking.
There have been some efforts by lawmakers to let the science rather than knee-jerk reaction influence the laws on e-cigarettes and vaping. The city of St. Joseph, Missouri recently voted to remove e-cigarettes from the city’s smoking ban. A state representative in Pennsylvania has introduced a bill to eliminate the state’s 40 percent tax on e-liquid. Opponents of taxes and bans on vaping products say that in addition to harming smokers who want to quit, vaping industry jobs and small businesses are threatened by efforts to curb vaping. Though there is still much misinformation being spread and fear-mongering about vaping going on, there are positive signs that some lawmakers are beginning to fight back with facts.