By Steve Birr
Officials in a Colorado town want to follow the example of a neighboring city by raising the tobacco purchasing age and leveling a massive tax on electronic cigarettes.
Bernie Grauer, a council member in Basalt, Colo., announced plans Friday to push the city to adopt stricter rules on tobacco products, including vaping devices. The proposal, which Grauer hopes to put to the public for an upcoming ballot vote this spring, would raise taxes on cigarettes and place a massive retail tax on all vapor products and smokeless tobacco, reports Aspen Daily News Online.
Grauer wants to follow the model of Aspen, Colo., where roughly 74 percent of residents voted Nov. 7 to approve a tobacco tax plan that raises the price of cigarettes to $3 a pack, with the tax increasing by 10 percent annually until the it reaches $4. It also includes a 40 percent tax on all vaping devices, which heat liquid nicotine but do not contain tobacco.
Grauer would also like to see Basalt raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21, which lawmakers in Aspen did this past spring.
“I read a story in the paper about Aspen’s recent vote on tobacco products, and I thought it would be the right thing to do to ask our town staff to look into putting similar wording on our ballot in the April election,” Grauer told the Aspen Daily News Online. “I think this is something that would result in an overall increase of health in the community. This is not just a tax grab. …I feel this is a justified use of the heavy hand of government.”
A 40 percent tax would likely devastate the city’s vape shops and make the products much more expensive for users, many of which are former smokers who rely on the devices for their daily nicotine fix. While public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices.
In Pennsylvania, where a 40 percent tax on vapor products went into effect in October 2016, at least 120 stores have been forced to close their doors.
Ample research proves that e-cigarettes drastically reduce the harm caused by combustible tobacco and are actually helping reduce smoking levels in the U.S. at a historic pace. Public health experts focused on harm reduction say officials looking to reduce the population of smokers should be expanding access to vapor products, not restricting it.