Soapbox

Another View: Taxing e-cigarettes will backfire on public health

A man exhales vapor from an e-cigarette in New York. There are moves in California to tax and regulate e-cigarettes the same as tobacco products.
A man exhales vapor from an e-cigarette in New York. There are moves in California to tax and regulate e-cigarettes the same as tobacco products. Associated Press file

California is on the wrong path if it moves forward with a regressive “sin” tax on vapor products, as supported by The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board (“Another shot at e-cigarettes,” Jan. 24).

The end result will only lead adults back to smoking cigarettes or force them to purchase products out of state or on the black market. The sad truth is that California received $1.52 billion in tobacco excise taxes and settlements in 2014, but only used 4.3 percent on prevention and cessation programs.

The statewide referendum to equate and tax vapor products like tobacco also is fundamentally flawed because it misleads voters by falsely implying that the harmful health effects of tobacco are similar to vapor products. Using students to politicize this debate is disingenuous.

Research shows that vapor products are less harmful alternatives to smoking, which accounts for 37,000 deaths and $18 billion in economic and health care costs each year in California.

Citing false data contributes to the misunderstanding of vapor products as effective replacements to smoking. The University of California, San Francisco, used faulty metadata to draw its conclusions on cessation and vapor products. A cadre of leading scientists called UCSF’s data “unscientific” and “incorrect.”

Another example of misrepresenting scientific data was the editorial’s reference to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics about teens and a “gateway effect.” The study’s authors cannot conclude that the use of vapor products directly leads to smoking. The same goes for advertising. Time and again these studies get widely reported without any due diligence, further adding to confusion.

The vapor industry – which primarily consists of independent manufacturers, suppliers and vape shops, and not Big Tobacco – continues to lobby for sensible regulations at the state and federal levels, including banning sales to minors and adopting child-resistant packaging.

Rather than tax consumers looking for a solution to smoking, the debate needs to focus on getting the 4 million adult smokers in California to switch to vaping.

Cynthia Cabrera is president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association. She can be contacted at info@sfata.org.

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