OLYMPIA – On Monday, April 22nd, the House Appropriations Committee passed legislation to curb teen vaping. House Bill 1873, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, implements a 37 percent tax rate on e-cigarettes and vapor products. If passed, Washington would be the fourth state (plus DC) to adopt any significant tax on vapor products and e-cigarettes.
“Our vaping tax legislation will deter teen and young adult use and re-invest tax dollars in programs that help teens and 18 to 21 year-olds addicted to nicotine quit,” said Pollet. “E-cigarettes and vaping products are dirt cheap compared to cigarettes. It’s time to tax an industry devoted to addicting a new generation to nicotine and use the proceeds to fund cessation, prevention and public health.”
Washington State’s Health Officer, Dr. Kathy Lofy, testified that e-cigarette and vaping use by high school students is “skyrocketing” in Washington and that the proposed tax “will immediately help reduce youth use.” Every ten percent tax increase, Dr. Lofy testified, will reduce overall e-cigarette or vaping by three to five percent among adults. Increased taxes are even more effective on youth, being two to three times more likely to prevent use.
According to the CDC’s WA Healthy Youth Survey, 30 percent of Washington high school seniors used e-cigarettes or “vaped” in a sample month during 2018. Teens who vape are four times more likely to smoke cigarettes.
The Appropriations Committee amended the bill to put the tax rate on e-cigarettes and vaping products at 37 percent, the same rate as Washington applies to marijuana sales. In contrast, state taxes are approximately 60 percent of the retail cost of cigarettes.
The Legislature passed House Bill 1074 to limit smoking and vaping to individuals 21 years of age or older earlier this session. This will help curb teen tobacco and vaping use. Raising prices by increasing taxes on these products will go even further to reduce tobacco and vaping use. Revenue generated from this tax will go directly to nicotine cessation services. This includes services for the 18-21 year olds who have been addicted prior to passage of the ban on sales to those under 21, along with prevention, education, public health and cancer research.
Vapor products and e-cigarettes are just fifteen to forty percent of the cost of cigarettes.
As Washington Liquor and Cannabis Control Board (LCB) and the WA State Health Officer testified, the five-cents-per-milliliter tax rate proposed in an industry-backed Senate Bill 5986 would not serve to deter youth access or provide meaningful funding for cessation and prevention. This rate is equal to just a one percent tax on the most popular e-cigarette and vaping products.
House Bill 1873 will now head to the full House for consideration. More information on teen vaping use and prevention can be found at housedemocrats.wa.gov/pollet.