The parallels between smoking tobacco and vaping have become increasingly clear. They are both highly addictive and dangerous to health.
But while decades-long efforts to cut smoking rates and keep youth from starting smoking have been effective, all progress has been lost with the introduction of e-cigarettes.
The companies marketing vape pods have targeted kids with candy flavors and social media advertising. The result is sobering with more than 1 in 3 high school seniors reporting vaping. Even in middle school, 5% of kids admit to vaping, according to government data.
Society is beginning to treat e-cigarettes the same as tobacco, including in the area of taxation.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have passed e-cigarette taxes, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a nonprofit advocacy group.
We know from past experience that raising the price of tobacco products through higher taxes reduced smoking rates, particularly among the young. Early studies suggest that hiking prices on vaping would have the same effect as on smokers.
States have imposed various levels of vaping taxes, with Vermont recently passing a 92 percent wholesale tax on vaping and e-cigarette products.
Hopefully all states, including Minnesota, will soon add e-cigarette taxes. (And raising the legal purchase age to 21 statewide in Minnesota would provide added benefit.)
The federal government should also tax vaping products.
The Protecting American Lungs Act cleared a key committee last month and will face a full House vote in Congress. It would tax vape products at the same rate as cigarettes — adding $1.15 to the price of a Juul pod, a 20% increase over the manufacturer’s retail price.
Most public-health experts say that tax rate should be higher, but they believe the tax would make a dent in teen vaping rates.
Some Republicans oppose adding a new tax. But public opinion polling has shown support and the conservative states of Arkansas and Kentucky are pushing e-cigarette taxes, with both proposals driven by Republicans.
Tobacco taxes aren’t a partisan issue, but a public health issue.