For Smokers, A New Tax On Nicotine is Raising The Price On Quitting

(Photo by Greg Jordan/Creative Commons)

By Amanda Wheeler

Inflation. Unemployment. Supply-Chain Disruptions. Debt Ceilings. Pandemics. And that just describes the last few months. Economic anxiety is gripping every American; the last thing we need is our leaders in Washington finding ways to make life even more expensive.

President Biden campaigned on not raising taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 a year, yet his party in Congress is pushing for a tax and spend plan that would break that pledge. In September, Democrats proposed increasing the tax on tobacco, nicotine, and vapor products.

It’s bad enough that this regressive tax will fall disproportionately on Americans whose income falls under the administration’s definition of “the rich.” But just a few weeks after the tax was announced, the Food and Drug Administration, for the first time, authorized the sale of an e-cigarette because they found the “potential benefit to smokers who switch completely or significantly reduce their cigarette use…”

So why is Congress trying to punish millions of Americans who use vaping as a way to quit cigarettes?

Vaping is not only a powerful harm reduction tool, it is the single most effective smoking cessation method ever devised. But this policy sends the signal that vaping is just as harmful as combustible smoking. That is flat wrong and dangerously misleading the American public.

The reality is vaping is a massively effective solution for tens of millions of American smokers. Imposing a regressive tax on these life-saving products is the last thing any of Arizona’s elected officials should be considering. In fact, across the entire government, Congress, the FDA and the President, need to rethink how vaping products are treated by regulators.

A few lessons can be learned from the approach in Great Britain where medical institutions have all embraced the powerful efficacy of vaping for smoking cessation.

Bureaucracies in the U.S. refuse to acknowledge vaping as the most effective tool available to save lives – in fact U.S. health agencies don’t even measure how many smokers use vaping to quit. The leaders in Great Britain take the opposite approach by encouraging the use of vaping as a far safer alternative to cigarettes.

In 2017, the UK government found that over 70,000 UK smokers used a vaping product to stop smoking. The UK also estimates that e-cigarettes are a whopping 95% less harmful than cigarettes and finds that over half of vapers used vaping to quit smoking.

Closer to home, a 2018 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded, “There is conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes for combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces users’ exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in combustible tobacco cigarettes.”

A 2018 Georgetown University Study also revealed a direct correlation between the increase in popularity of vaping with a decrease in cigarette smoking. If you support efforts to reduce smoking then you can’t read the Georgetown study and not quickly understand how imposing any tax on vaping products is a bad idea.

More evidence is also finding that vaping is more effective than other nicotine replacement therapies for helping smokers quit. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2019 found “E-cigarettes were more effective for smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapy, when both products were accompanied by behavioral support.”

Tobacco’s biggest critics report that 15 percent of Arizonans smoke and 28.7 percent of Arizona cancer deaths are attributable to smoking. Curbing access to vaping products by increasing taxes only makes these numbers more painful.

It is more than just President Biden’s promise. If the President supports the tax, then he is endangering the health of the very people he wants to help. Eighty percent of smokers make less than $200,000 a year and the majority live below the poverty line. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 1 in 5 adult smokers make less than $35,000 annually. This tax could cost those Americans hundreds of dollars more per year.

Leaders in Washington can do better – members of Arizona’s Congressional delegation should stand up for smokers trying to quit and oppose new proposals that tax nicotine. If we want to help solve the problem that tens of millions of Americans face each day in trying to quit smoking then vapes need to be sold over the counter.

Amanda Wheeler is president of American Vapor Manufacturers and the owner of three vape stores in Arizona.