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Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick drops e-cigarette tax proposal

A tax on e-cigarettes, previously proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick, dropped from the administration’s budget proposal Monday, which is set for release Jan. 22.

Karmen Hanson, health program manager at the Conference of State Legislatures, said policymakers are still trying to determine how e-cigarettes should be regulated because they are relatively new on the market.

“Because the federal government hasn’t acted, states aren’t quite sure what to do with them,” she said. “In the absence of any federal activity or federal policy, states are starting to act just so they know that they’re doing something.”

The tax proposal would have made Massachusetts the second state to impose a tobacco tax on e-cigarettes. Minnesota was the first when they redefined their state law about taxable tobacco products in 2010.

According to the Conference of State Legislatures website, e-cigarettes “… do not produce a combustible ‘smoke’ like traditionally burned cigarettes, nor do they contain tar, a by-product of burning tobacco.”

The Food and Drug Administration said it would begin regulation of e-cigarettes in 2011, but so far no regulations have been passed due to debate about the safety of the e-cigarette, the FDA website said.

Only a few states have made strides toward regulating e-cigarettes, including defining it as a tobacco product and prohibiting sale to minors.

A study done by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Protection called “Notes from the Field: Electronic Cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students” showed a rise in e-cigarettes purchases, largely due to the lack of regulations.

“E-cigarettes that are not marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and in most states there are no restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors,” the study said. “Use of e-cigarettes has increased among U.S. adult current and former smokers in recent years.”

The study also showed that e-cigarette use doubled from 2011 to 2012 among U.S. middle and high school students, resulting in an estimated 1.78 million students who had used e-cigarettes as of 2012. Of these students, an estimated 160,000 students reported never using conventional cigarettes.
“This is a serious concern because the overall impact of e-cigarette use on public health remains uncertain,” the study said. “In youths, concerns include the potential negative impact of nicotine on adolescent brain development, as well as the risk for nicotine addiction and initiation of the use of conventional cigarettes or other tobacco products.”

Given the increase in the use of e-cigarettes among youth, the CDC said it would work along with the FDA to prevent the marketing, sale and use of the product in minors.

Several residents said a tax would stop people from using e-cigarettes, but they were not sure a tax should be implemented.

Mary Biagiotti, 55, of East Boston, said a tax might hinder the therapeutic aspect that e-cigarettes provide to users who are trying to quit conventional smoking.

“My first reaction is that e-cigarettes shouldn’t be taxed,” she said. “If they’re helping people stop smoking, which I think a lot of the time that’s what they’re using them for, then you’re going to just divert someone’s thing that is going to help them stop smoking.”

Troy Barboza, 26, of Brookline, a former e-cigarette user, said that a tax could be enough to deter people, especially youths, from purchasing e-cigarettes. However, he said that e-cigarettes were helpful when he wanted to quit smoking.

“Any sort of additional monetary cost is enough to deter people,” he said. “But having used electronic cigarettes, it’s not quite the same [as a conventional cigarette], and it’s enough of a difference where making the transition [between the two] was very difficult. I pushed through it and it [the e-cigarette] ended up helping me a lot.”

John Hatcher, 29, of Fenway, said when dealing with tobacco addiction, most people would be willing to pay a small tax.

“I don’t think a tax would deter them,” he said. “Once you become addicted to nicotine, you’re going to do whatever it takes.”

5 Responses for “Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick drops e-cigarette tax proposal”

  1. Karen C. says:

    My complements to Ms. Hartwell for a fair, balanced article. Sin taxes should be imposed on products that are proven to cause harm. E-cigs were designed to give adult smokers an alternative way to use nicotine while eliminating the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke. You’d be amazed at how many “educated” people think that nicotine is a carcinogen (it isn’t), or that smokeless tobacco and tobacco cigarettes are equally dangerous (they aren’t).

    I am very pleased that Massachusetts won’t be imposing an exorbitant sin tax on e-cigarettes (at least for now). My health has improved tremendously since I switched from smoking to vaping.

    Products like e-cigs and smokeless tobacco (snus, etc.) are 99% safer than inhaling smoke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke and have given up on trying to quit by using traditional FDA-approved methods with dismal success rates, or have a loved one who smokes, I encourage you to look into lower risk alternatives. A good place to start is the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, or any of the forums devoted to electronic cigarettes. At the very least, BU School of Public Health’s Dr. Michael Siegel writes a very informative blog “The Rest of the Story: Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary”.

  2. Tina Meyers says:

    The idiots in New York City & Chicago {the mayors & the city council that is} do not realize that e-cigarettes are battery powered & water vapor, with no tobacco at all!

  3. Ted M. says:

    So let me get this straight…instead of government actually supporting something that could decrease a dangerous habit, they’ll tax it instead….oh wait, let me guess, the tax money will go towards something good….

  4. Mike says:

    I have never smoked, and I have never tried an eCig, but three of my best friends that all smoked for over 20 years stopped smoking by switching to eCigs. It is wonderful not hearing them coughing wheezing all of the time. All I know is that they all say that they feel much better than they used to. I rode in a car for 5 hours with all 3 of them puffing away. All I could smell was a very weak, very light, pleasant grape smell. It was nice not having to stop for “smoke breaks” every 50 miles like usual. Time to get my Tia to try them. She’s been smoking for over 40. I hope they can help her not smoke.

    I have supported the bans and taxes on cigarettes since they first started happening. The whole idea was to get people to stop smoking. If something helps people to stop smoking, why in the world would we want to make it more difficult or expensive for people who are trying to quit. Isn’t that what we have been trying to get them to do all along? eCigs should not be taxed if they can help people stop lighting cigarettes. I don’t think we need to regulate them either. If problems are found, then we might want to think about it, but if there aren’t any proven issues with them, then we should leave them alone. I do not think minors should use them, so prohibiting sale or use to minors under 18 would be okay.

  5. Uma says:

    HOORAH!!! This is great news, especially for those who are struggling to buy their gear while they are still buying their smokes. The newbies don’t know if the eCig will work for them, until after the try it, & they can’t afford to try it when their smokes are taking all their funds. I applaud you for keeping these within affordable reach of those who are struggling to purchase them. At this rate we will literally be a smoke free America before we know it… by choice!! :).

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