Friday, July 31, 2020

Kentucky’s New E-Cigarette Tax Will Keep Smokers Smoking, and Dying

Under cover of the Covid-19 epidemic, Kentucky lawmakers earlier this year passed an excise tax on cigarettes’ principal competitors: e-cigarettes and vapor products (here).  The tax goes into effect August 1, and amounts to $1.50 on cartridge products and 15% on other vapor products.  That’s significant, as a cartridge equals about a pack of cigarettes, which is taxed by the Commonwealth at $1.10 per pack. 

Tobacco prohibitionists are thrilled.  Dr. Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky: “This new tax is clearly a win for health in Kentucky, especially for our adolescents and teens, because it will result in a significant price increase that will deter many of our youth from using dangerous e-cigarette products.” (here ) 

Chandler has crusaded for e-cigarette taxes since 2018, when he said that “youth e-cig use is often a gateway to cigarette smoking makes immediate action imperative.”

Wrong.  Current (past-30-day) smoking among Kentucky high schoolers was 26% in 2005 and 24% in 2011, before e-cigarettes were widely available.  In contrast, during the e-cigarette era (2011 to 2017), current smoking dropped from 24% to 14% (here). 

Chandler actually has the facts backwards.  Research co-authored by a University of Kentucky economist two weeks ago concluded that “e-cigarette taxes increase traditional cigarette use” and “this finding has been documented for youth.” (abstract here).  The reason is simple: e-cigarettes and vapor products are effective substitutes for combustible cigarettes. 

Kentucky’s new tax on e-cigarettes guarantees that more Kentuckians will smoke… and die. 


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