BDuring the 2018 election, then-Congressman Jared Polis gave his support for vaping products as a form of harm-reduction, even going so far as to retweet an article from the libertarian-leaning CATO Institute titled “E-cig regulation likely to burn low-income Americans.”
Eight months later, it seemed that he had abandoned his beliefs on vaping, moving full-steam ahead with sending a 62% tax increase on vaping products to the voters. It’s difficult to see how one can simultaneously believe that vaping products are an effective tool for smoking cessation while also believing they should be taxed at the same rate as the cancer sticks of yesteryear.
After all, we aren’t taxing nicotine patches and gum at 62%.
While this tax may be a different regulation than what CATO was referring to in that 2018 article, the effect will be the same. Low-income Coloradans will feel the pain.
Vaping – or the use of e-cigarettes – has not only proven to be possibly the most powerful tool we’ve found to get smokers off of traditional cigarettes, but has proven to be a far safer alternative. A 2018 study commissioned by Public Health England found that cancer potencies for e-cigarettes were “largely under 0.5% of the risk of smoking,” yet the governor and his merry band of tax-happy Democrats seem hell-bent on painting them with the same broad brush as cigarettes.
Nobody wants to see our teenagers hooked on nicotine, but in the rush for a solution, we may end up punishing those that are in the process of adding years back to their lives by transitioning from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, and especially those who are lower-income. The CATO Institute, which the governor seems to be (at least somewhat) fond of, concluded in a 2014 study that “adult smoking is largely unaffected by taxes,” and that those taxes “represent a non-trivial burden on low-income families’ budgets.”
Parents, educators and policymakers are understandably emotional over Colorado leading the nation in teen vaping, but as history has illustrated, emotion is rarely a solid foundation for effective policy proposals. With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, the insistence to get this proposal to the voters without having a genuine conversation on e-cigarettes is confusing and ignorant of the simple fact that these products have been extremely effective in reducing smoking among adults in the United States. A 2017 study from the University of California, San Diego’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health concluded that “…e-cigarette use was associated with an increase in smoking cessation at the population level…This is the first statistically significant increase observed in population smoking cessation among US adults in the past 15 years.”
Perhaps House Bill 1333 – the bill that will put this tax increase on the ballot – is simply an effort to boost the state government’s coffers. If so, it still represents an ineffective revenue stream if its proponents truly believe it will reduce the purchase of cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
Hopefully, Democrat legislators will see the silliness in this proposal, return to the drawing board, and find a solution that won’t punish smoking cessation. If not, I am hopeful that Colorado voters will see what legislators will not, and kill this proposal at the ballot box.
Hopefully, Gov. Polis makes a call to CATO and rediscovers his libertarian leanings.
Sage Naumann is a political professional, commentator and a vaper based in Brighton. He currently serves as the communications director for the Colorado Senate Republicans.