For the first time, Californians who vape will be subject to tobacco taxes, with the passage of Prop. 56.
While traditional cigarette smokers will go from paying a tax of 87 cents per pack to $2.87 starting April 1, an equivalent taxation structure for e-cigarettes and vaping liquids still must be calculated.
Public health advocates cheered the passage as a way to reduce tobacco usage, while the vaping industry said the tax could deter smokers from using e-cigs as a tool to quit. The vote came five months after California raised the smoking and vaping age from 18 to 21.
“California is making massive strides just in a few months,” said Ravi Choudhuri, advocacy manager for the American Lung Association’s Orange County division. “We were always known as the forefront of anti-tobacco states, and now we’re back on that track.”
For every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, smoking goes down 4 percent, according to a 2014 report on smoking by the U.S. surgeon general. State Board of Equalization spokesman Jonathan Mendick said Wednesday that the board will inform the public of how the tax will apply to e-cigarettes on its website in the coming months.
“It’s still pretty vague unfortunately as far as the actual tax,” said Alea Jasso, co-owner of South County Vapors in Tustin. “I guess now leaders from the e-cig industry and liquid manufacturers will have to sit down with the BOE and try to find a fair taxation that won’t put shops out of business.”
Jasso said vaping liquids, or e-juice, come in bottles ranging from 15 ml to 200 ml, with a typical 30 to 60 ml bottle costing $18 to $30. She said she thinks the tax will need to be based on milliliters rather than set as a flat rate.
The $2 a pack increase on traditional cigarettes could also prompt current smokers to switch to vaping, provided the tax isn’t too high, she said.
“If they look to vaping as their source to try to quit, we hope it’s affordable enough for them to be able to do that,” she said.
This month, the journal Health & Place published research showing that Orange County middle school students whose schools were within a quarter-mile of a vaping shop were about twice as likely to use e-cigarettes than those whose schools were not close by.
“The visibility of the stores and the novelty may be more attractive to younger students who are still in that developmental stage where they’re more likely to experiment with substances,” said lead researcher Georgiana Bostean, who teaches sociology and environmental science at Chapman University. “The fact that there are more vape stores might make them think vaping is more socially acceptable than smoking. It might increase actual access because they’re in walking distance of the school.”
Bostean said she expects the higher price of e-cigarettes to drive down usage, which has been increasing among teens.
“There’s a huge bulk of evidence on tobacco taxes that shows taxation is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking across the board, and also in adolescents,” she said. “There’s no reason to believe that would be different for e-cigarettes.”
Source: The Orange County Register