Officials with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky are pleased with a provision in the state budget that places a new excise tax on e-cigarette pods.
While the state has sales taxes on both tobacco and vaping products, traditional tobacco products were previously subject to an excise tax while vaping products were not.
House Bill 351 imposed a $1.50 excise tax on “closed” e-cigarette products, like nicotine pods used in “Juul” brand and other devices.
“Open” systems, which can be refilled with liquid that is sold separately, were given an excise tax rate of 15% of the product’s sale price in the revenue bill.
The taxes take effect in July.
Bonnie Hackbarth, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said the $1.50 tax was actually more than supporters had hoped for in the bill. Supporters had advocated for a 27.5% tax rate on e-cigarette pods, which would have been $1.10 for a pack of pods, Hackbarth said.
The new tax will hopefully have an impact on youth and teens using e-cigarette products, Hackbarth said.
When cigarette taxes were increased in 2018, there was a decrease in the number of cigarettes sold in the state, she said.
“What happened in the first 12 months was 36 million fewer packs of cigarettes were sold in Kentucky,” a decrease in overall sales of 10%, Hackbarth said.
The hope is the new excise tax on e-cigarette pods will create a financial burden on youth, “to discourage them to not start in the first place.”
“It’s a very tough addiction,” Hackbart said, adding that experts say “nicotine is as addictive as heroin.”
Preventing youth and adult vaping could make those who stop using such products less susceptible to the coronavirus.
“A COVID-19 prevention measure is to reduce or stop smoking because that also damages your lungs,” Hackbarth said.
In a written statement, Foundation president and CEO Ben Chandler said: “We applaud the legislature for adopting a pod tax that will substantially increase the price of the products that are most popular among youth right now, including the Juul and knock-off reusable devices and the Puff Bar and Posh disposable e-cigarettes.
“In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, inhaling toxins that are shown to damage the lungs puts these kids and every other smoker and vaper in the commonwealth at greater risk for serious complications from COVID-19,” Chandler said. “This is an important bill today and for the future, and a strong step in the right direction.”
State smoking cessation program funds were cut in the one-year budget, which was a disappointment, Hackbarth said. Currently, $3.3 million is allocated to smoking cessation programs in the current budget, but that amount was cut by 40% in the new budget, she said.
“What we are going to be able to offer (to help people quit smoking) is going to go down,” Hackbarth said.
“We are going to ask others to step up” and make up for lost state funding, she said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse