E-cig users should pay higher taxes, PA doctors say

The Pennsylvania Medical Society says the state should regulate electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigs,” the same way it handles other tobacco products, including applying taxes and banning sales to minors.

All that, even though e-cigs don’t contain tobacco.

WANNA VAPE? Users of e-cigarettes should be paying the same taxes as people who smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes, according to the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

E-cigarettes use a battery-powered heater to vaporize a chemical mixture of water and nicotine, replicating the look and feel of smoking a cigarette without requiring the user to buy or inhale tobacco. But the group of more than 200 doctors that gathered in Hershey this weekend for the annual conference of the PMS said e-cigs should be regulated the same as traditional tobacco cigarettes, regardless of that fundamental difference.

“They may be odorless and give the appearance of being less harmful, but beyond that, we just don’t know the impact that the vapors have on the user and others,” said Dr. Bruce A. MacLeod, PMS president. “It may be best for now to err on the side of caution while researchers investigate.”

Use of e-cigarettes has expanded in recent years, in part because far fewer regulations exist concerning how, where and when they are allowed to be used.

But that’s starting to change.

New York and New Jersey recently passed legislation banning “vaping” — the e-cigarette equivalent of “smoking” — near schools and other public buildings. Several states and cities are considering similar bans.

Most states already ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 18, in line with the national ban on selling tobacco products to minors. But Pennsylvania is one of the few states with no such law on the books, according to License To Vape, a website that caters to e-cigarette users and tracks state laws affecting the product’s users.

According to a study released earlier this year by researchers at Drexel University inPhiladelphia, the vapors released by e-cigarettes pose no significant risks to public health.

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, a national group which has fought efforts at the state and federal level to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as traditional tobacco cigarettes, funded the study. The group says more than 80 percent of e-cigarette users are former smokers who are using the high-tech alternative as a healthier option.

Though MacLeod acknowledged e-cigarettes may be used by some smokers to quit using the more-dangerous tobacco cigarettes, the fact that e-cigarettes are still addicting and can be marketed to minors was cause for concern.

In addition to banning sales to minors and applying cigarette taxes to e-cigarettes, the group called for Pennsylvania schools to include the dangers of e-cigarettes in their normal anti-tobacco programs.

Pennsylvania taxes cigarettes at a rate of $1.60 per pack of 20 cigarettes. That tax is applied on top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax and is paid by the consumer upon purchase.

Revenue from the cigarette tax is used to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, and funds farmland preservation programs.

But e-cigarettes are not subject to the state cigarette tax — neither are cigars and various forms of “smokeless tobacco” — so users only have to pay the sales tax, perhaps giving smokers another incentive to switch from the traditional cigarette to the electronic kind.

Next Story -

Previous Story -

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Notify of