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Kentucky Health Advocates Call For Vaping To Be Added To Tobacco Tax

Kentucky Health Advocates Call For Vaping To Be Added To Tobacco Tax



Kentucky Health Advocates Call For Vaping To Be Added To Tobacco Tax

As vaping grows both as a community and as an industry, big tobacco companies whose profits are threatened by the rising competition have sown campaigns of misinformation to make vaping look worse than it is. Some have bought into these campaigns, and health advocacy groups have been pushing for legislation at the state level that would prohibit public vaping just as smoking is now banned in most places. Most recently, they're seeking to impose bans and tax increases that would hurt the vaping community and shops.

The most recent state to suggest higher taxes is Kentucky, where a coalition of health groups have demanded a sharp increase targeting both combustion cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The proposal, which has already gained the backing of several lawmakers, says it looks to combat smoking in a state that is known for its connections to the tobacco industry and the state’s cheap price of cigarettes. But it would also significantly increase the price of one of the most effective harm reduction alternatives.

Kentucky and Tobacco

Kentucky, in particular, has a long and storied connection to the tobacco industry. The state has the highest adult smoking rate in the United States, and the highest rate of cancer-related deaths. This is most likely linked to the historically low taxes on cigarettes: Kentucky currently charges 60 cents per pack while most states set it between $1 and $2.50, while the state of New York imposes $4.25 extra per pack in "sin taxes."

“If Kentucky lawmakers were to raise the tobacco tax to $1.60 a pack, the data shows us that 14,800 fewer people in Kentucky would die prematurely, 23,200 kids would never start smoking, 29,400 adults would quit and 5,900 babies would be born healthier because their moms had quit,” write Drs. Sarah Moyer and Karen M. Cost in an op-ed for the Courier Journal.

Now a campaign is underway to increase the state tax by $1 this year. This tax makes sense for combustible cigarettes, and the decision to mount a campaign to discourage youth from taking up smoking seems fair. Nobody is arguing that tobacco products shouldn’t be sold to younger children, however, these health advocates are also calling for the tax to target the vaping industry, which provides what are proven to be key harm reduction cessation tools.

“Electronic cigarettes are not a safe alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes, and studies show that young people who use electronic cigarettes often become dual users of electronic and conventional cigarettes,” counter Moyer and Cost, however.

This type of misinformation overlooks all of the studies that have shown that vaping, in fact, are a harm reducing alternative to smoking cigarettes.

Momentum Is with a Tax

So far the tax proposal is backed by the Smoke Free Tomorrow coalition, which is made up of around 150 pressure groups. It’s also being supported by the state senate’s Health and Welfare Committee, several doctors and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce – and, according to a poll, 69% of the public are also behind it.

Smoke Free Tomorrow’s chairman, former state attorney general Ben Chandler, says he plans to visit all 120 counties in Kentucky to stump for the new tax – he’s also organising intensive lobbying at the state capitol. Chandler and his associates believe they’re pushing at an open door after years of resistance to higher taxes, and they plan to spend almost $600,000 on persuading lawmakers to push a bill through. With help from state activists who’ve been pushing inaccurate information about vaping, they have a good chance of achieving it unless Kentucky vapers push back.