We applaud Gov. Phil Scott’s proposal to tax e-cigarettes at the same rate as other tobacco products, or 92 percent of the wholesale price.

He is correct in wanting to stop this epidemic immediately, and not waiting decades like we did with tobacco.

If the measure is approved, Vermont would be the fourth state to enact a wholesale tax on e-cigarettes. California, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have already done so, as has Washington, D.C. Six other states have enacted per-milliliter taxes on e-cigarette liquids: Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and West Virginia.

It is expected the tax would bring an estimated $1 million in revenue to the state.

The National Cancer Institute defines an e-cigarette as “A device that has the shape of a cigarette, cigar, or pen and does not contain tobacco. It uses a battery and contains a solution of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals, some of which may be harmful. When electronic cigarettes are used, the nicotine solution turns into a mist that can be inhaled into the lungs. The amount of nicotine in individual e-cigarettes can vary. It is not yet known whether electronic cigarettes are safe or if they can be used to help smokers quit smoking.”

Clearly, there is an addictive quality to these devices.

Case in point, right here in Vermont:

“Between 2017 and 2018, 1.5 million more kids began using e-cigarettes and vape products across the nation. This is the biggest one-year spike of any substance in nearly 50 years,” Scott said in his budget address last week. “Right here in Vermont, use among young people nearly doubled. And the Surgeon General has declared this an epidemic. … After all the progress made to lower nicotine addiction, this is not only concerning — it’s frustrating.”

The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey points out that one in eight Vermont high school students and one in 25 Vermont middle school students reported using e-cigarettes, and this was before the boom of Juul, a popular e-cigarette brand among youth.

From 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use by U.S. high school students rose 78 percent. This is the biggest one-year spike of any substance in nearly 50 years.

“If enacted, this tax can save lives and protect health,” said Jennifer Costa, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACSCAN) local government relations director. “Young people are starting to smoke e-cigarettes, like Juul, in record numbers. As the governor pointed out, e-cigarette use among young people in Vermont has nearly doubled.”

According to the ACSCAM, a 2016 U.S. Surgeon General’s report concluded “e-cigarette use is strongly associated with the use of other tobacco products among youth and young adults, particularly combustible tobacco products.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 31 percent of teen e-cigarette users will start smoking within six months, compared to 8 percent of non-e-cigarette users. ACSCAN is concerned that e-cigarette use is creating a new generation of Vermonters who will suffer from a deadly, lifelong addiction to nicotine and tobacco products.

Research indicates that significant increases in tax on tobacco products and support for tobacco cessation and prevention programs help people quit smoking and encourage others to never start. By increasing the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to an equivalent rate, Vermont can help reduce tax evasion, generate more new revenue, prevent initiation of these products and ensure that more tobacco users quit instead of switching to a cheaper product.

In the days since his budget address, health advocates have praised the Republican governor’s idea. Predictably, the proposal was condemned by the American Vaping Association, an advocacy group that argues e-cigarettes are an effective stop-smoking option for adults.

“Let’s learn from the past, let’s not make the same mistakes with e-cigarettes or anything else. Our kids must know the dangers of these behaviors, and we should stop it in its tracks,” Scott declared.

We could not agree more.

While the governor has vowed not to raise taxes on Vermonters, he is imposing one in the name of public health. And we hope lawmakers agree it’s the right decision.

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