A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

E-cigarette tax bill aimed at curbing epidemic of teen vaping would equal tax on pack of cigarettes

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Electronic cigarette use or “vaping” is on the rise among teens, and some Kentucky lawmakers believe a tax on e-cigarettes may help deter young people from using them.

State Reps. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, and Jerry T. Miller, R-Louisville, announced a bill last week that would add an excise tax on e-cigarette sales in the state. The tax would be equal to the current $1.10-per-pack tax on traditional cigarettes.

Kentucky lawmakers hope to reduce teen e-cigarette use by adding a tax to e-cigarettes sold in the state. (image from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said e-cigarettes can deliver just as much nicotine, and pointed out that developing brains are especially vulnerable to the addictive substances and chemicals found in many e-cigarette products.

“There’s a real fear here in Kentucky about this epidemic of vaping,” he said. “It’s gotten out of control, and I think there are a lot of people who recognize that, and they’re looking for ways to curb it. And we think this will help do the trick.”

E-cigarette use has ballooned among high-school and middle-school students in the last two years. At least one in four Kentucky 12th-graders and one in seven eighth-graders use e-cigarettes, according to a recent state survey. While the tax on traditional cigarettes increased by 50 cents per pack last year, there currently is no tax on e-cigarettes.

Miller, who is co-sponsoring the bill, said studies have shown that higher taxes drive down tobacco use among teens. He said he thinks the same effect will happen with e-cigarettes.

“Most of the kids in middle and high school who are using these things are not 18,” he said. “So, they’re getting them somehow. And, I think the past hundred years has proved that prohibition usually doesn’t work, and the best way to get to teen use, affect teen use, is through price.”

A handful of states, including Illinois and West Virginia, already have implemented statewide taxes on e-cigarette products. If it becomes law, the new tax would go into effect next summer.

The bill’s text is online at healthy-ky.org.

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