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Should smokers pay a tax to try and stop teen vaping? Colorado's governor thinks so

Proposal would triple cigarette tax and tax vaping
Posted at 9:51 AM, Apr 25, 2019

DENVER -- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is proposing a tax on nicotine to try and reduce teen vaping by using those funds to pay for educational and health care programs.

The plan is to increase the tax on cigarettes from 84 cents to $2.59 and tax vaping liquid by 60%.

"We have a moral imperative to reduce teen smoking and vaping; we have a financial imperative for public health," Polis said in a news conference earlier Wednesday.

The taxes would raise millions of dollars to fund preschool along with other health and educational initiatives.

Doctors, some students welcome proposal to tax smokers

Dr. Robin Deterding said she supports the tax. She said teens are choosing to vape because the liquid isn’t taxed under current Colorado law. While a pack of cigarettes is more than $5, the same amount of nicotine in a vaping pod is only $1.

"I've been a pediatric lung specialist for over 25 years and my colleagues have never seen an epidemic come upon us as fast and as large as the vaping," Deterding said.

Wheat Ridge High School Sophomore Sam Budoff also supports the measure. He said his classmates are all vaping.

"These shops are as numerous as a Starbucks with students flooding to these locations during lunch and off hours,” he said.

Vape shop owners see possible tax as an attack

"This tax would effectively put me out of business. Our industry — we are a small business and we can't sustain a 62% tax on our products," Amanda Wheeler with Rocky Mountain Smoke Free Alliance said.

The tax could affect other products, too.

Cornelius Wright with Capital Cigars says each cigar is already taxed at 40%. He said increasing the tax will continue to push people online and away from local businesses.

"I do see a lot of people who say, 'Well, I usually come in twice a week or three times a week, but I can get this same cigar 40% less online," Wright said.

Smoker says tax won't do much to reduce teen vaping

Taxes won’t stop teens from trying something new, said Adam Dewildt, who said he was barely 18 when he first started smoking.

"Once you are going to try what you want to try anyway, (teens) are going to spend that money regardless," he said.

There is a chance this proposal never makes it to voters in November. It has to convince the Colorado legislature first and make it through the General Assembly by next Friday before the legislative session ends.