A new vape tax study conducted by a team of researchers from six universities and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that raising taxes on e-cigarettes to fight vaping may push people back to smoking.
The team analyzed scanner data from 35,000 retailers across the country from 2011 to 2017. For every 10 percent increase in the prices of e-cigarettes, there was a corresponding drop in sales of 26 percent. However, there was also a 10 percent jump in sales of traditional cigarettes.
“We estimate that for every 1 e-cigarette pod no longer purchased as a result of an e-cigarette tax, 6.2 extra packs of cigarettes are purchased instead,” Georgia State University economist and study co-author Michael Pesko said in the press release. “The public health impact of e-cigarette taxes in this case is likely negative.”
E-cigarette Tax Ineffective
The team argues that while illnesses related to vaping are a public health issues, those are eclipsed by the risks posed by smoking. Cigarettes still kill more than 480,000 Americans annually. And although e-cigarettes contain toxicants, they contain fewer than traditional cigarettes and are safer for adults who are not pregnant, according to the researchers and authorities such as NIH and the CDC.
The vape tax study researchers conclude that policymakers should consider balancing the actual public health risks of e-cigarette and traditional cigarette use as they develop and implement tobacco control policies including those involving taxes.
20 states have an e-cigarette tax as of early 2020, some nearly doubling the price of vaping. Congress is also consideringtaxing e-cigarettes at the federal level. Should they succeed, the national e-cigarette tax will be about proportionate to its traditional cigarette counterpart.
Meanwhile, both anecdotal evidence and research indicates that e-cigarettes serve as a useful smoking cessation device for many. For example, a recent study found that recent quitters are more likely to vape than are people who quit smoking years ago. Researchers have also found that teen vaping does not lead to smoking.