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Editorial: Increase taxes on e-cigs

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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E-cigarettes, the battery-powered and somewhat disappointing little brother to the traditional cigarette, is going to facE some severe restrictions in the coming months.

In a 241-page proposal released by the Food and Drug Administration last week, the FDA has outlined a plan to ban the sale of e-cigs to minors (along with hookahs, cigars, and tobacco pipes), along with the implementation of warning labels similar to the ones on cigarettes and the disclosure of the ingredients used in e-cig combinations.

These FDA guidelines, while long overdue, are a welcome public-health development. It’s no secret that e-cigs, while not being nearly as deleterious as traditional cigarettes, are still incredibly unhealthy products. A recent study by Clinical Cancer Research, a medical journal devoted to studying the causes of and treatments for cancer, found that e-cigs affect bronchial cells and lungs in detrimental ways, extremely similar to conventional cigarettes. Further studies have revealed that nicotine, the addictive substance that makes cigarettes so hard to quit and also present in e-cigs, can cause lung cancer.

All of this stands in contrast to the pernicious lie peddled by the e-cig industry that purports that e-cigs are, if not completely benign, relatively harmless. A group of Senate Democrats recently tried to impose regulations which would allow the FTC to stop e-cig companies from claiming that e-cigs help smokers quite regular cigarettes (a dubious claim considering that e-cigs contain just as much nicotine as cigarettes). Also, consumer advocacy groups such as “Truth in Advertising” have pointed out that e-cigs target a younger demographic with their deceptive tactics.

While we certainly applaud the FDA for its steps to regulate this health risk, we believe that a more effective approach would be to impose heavy excise taxes on e-cig sales similar to the ones that already exist for alcohol and conventional cigarettes.

At the moment, with no uniform federal policy concerning e-cig taxation, it’s a bit of a Wild West environment, with most states lacking specific taxes on e-cigs. The exception to this rule is Minnesota, whose government, in 2012, decided to adopt a 95 percent tax on e-cigs, a decision that is expected to yield around $1 billion in revenue for the state.

The Minnesota model appears to be catching on in municipalities across the countries looking to not only reduce the motivation to smoke through regressive taxation but also for new sources of income. New Jersey Gov., and expected 2016 Republican presidential contender, Chris Christie proposed that his state enact taxes that would bring the price of e-cigs up to $2.70 a pack, the same rate as conventional cigarettes in his state.

We believe that, in light of the FDA decision, which essentially places e-cigs in the same category as regular cigarettes in terms of health policy, it is in the best interest of Iowa to substantially raise taxes on e-cigs, if not to discourage the use of a product that has been proven to harm the health of the state’s residents, to at least accumulate additional revenue for the state to more adequately fund such public services as schools, firefighters, cops, highways, etc.


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