California may soon become state number five to institute a tax on electronic cigarettes. Proposition 56 awaits voters’ decisions, and would implement a tax on the controversial devices. Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, and North Carolina already have such a law in place with hopes of deterring state residents from lighting up — even if it is electronic. And given that California is the most populous state in the U.S., should it jump on the e-cigarette tax train, it might start a national movement capable perhaps of derailing the multibillion dollar vaping industry.
Those looking to get the bill passed have their work cut out for them — Californians previously voted down attempts to raise cigarette taxes in both 2006 and 2012, and the tobacco industry certainly doesn’t want to see this latest proposition make its way into law, either. The industry has already raised more than $56 million to ensure Proposition 56 does not pass. Anti-smoking groups, on the other hand, have managed to raise more than $20 million for their efforts.
E-cigarettes have long been at the center of controversy as studies have suggested that young people are turning increasingly towards these devices, which may lead to a renewed rise in popularity for traditional cigarettes. “We’re facing a particularly alarming new public threat with the rising popularity of electronic cigarettes, especially among our youth,” said Dr. Ted Mazer, president-elect of the California Medical Association. And while some claim that e-cigarettes can be used to help smokers kick the habit, one recent study suggested that the devices might have the opposite effect.
All the same, tobacco advocates insist that the tax proposed by Proposition 56 would be a net negative for all parties. “Burdensome taxes on innovative tobacco products like e-vapor could impede adult consumer interest and therefore could interfere with the development of an effective and consistent national tobacco strategy,” said David Sutton, a spokesman for Altria Group Inc., which includes cigarette makers and the e-vapor company Nu Mark.
We’ll just have to wait and see what Californians decide come November.