SB 347, “AN ACT TO IMPOSE A PRIVILEGE TAX ON E-CIGARETTES”
Chairman and members of the
My name is Marc Hyden, and I am
the Director of State Government Affairs for the R Street Institute, which is a
nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy research organization. Our mission is to
engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited,
effective government in many areas, including tobacco harm reduction. That’s
why SB 347 is of special interest to us.
While it is important for the
University of Arkansas to be fully funded, I urge caution when considering SB
347, which would levy increased taxes on e-cigarettes equal to that of tobacco
products, like combustible cigarettes.
Tobacco has traditionally been
taxed based upon its risk, and this is understandable, as it is exceedingly
dangerous. However, taxing e-cigarettes at the same level does not represent
risk, and in fact, it will likely be a great disservice to Arkansans.
According to the American Cancer
Society, e-cigarettes present a reduced risk compared to combustible
Public Health England has found that e-cigarettes are at least 95 percent less
harmful than combustibles, and the reason for this is simple.[ii]
When someone lights a cigarette, around 7,000 chemicals are released—many of
which are carcinogenic. E-cigarettes, on the other hand, do not use the
combustion process. Thus, these chemicals are not released, making e-cigarettes
far less harmful.
Indeed, the U.S. Surgeon General has
stated that e-cigarettes’ effects are similar to other quit tools like nicotine
patches or lozenges.[iii] Comparing
them to such implements is appropriate given that e-cigarettes are the
country’s number one tool for quitting smoking.[iv]
The truth is that incentives
matter. Raising taxes on quit tools and improved behavior disincentivizes
individuals from giving up smoking. Accordingly, Arkansas would do well to
promote better decisions, rather than punishing e-cigarette users with
increased taxes. For these reasons, I hope the committee members will use great
prudence when considering SB 347.
for your time,
Director, State Government Affairs
R Street Institute
[i] The American Cancer Society Board of Directors,
“American Cancer Society Position Statement on Electronic Cigarettes,” American
Cancer Society, February 2018.
[ii] Ann McNeill et. al., “Evidence review of e-cigarettes
and heated tobacco products 2018,” Public Health England, March 2, 2018.
[iii] Kathleen Sebelius, “The Health Consequences of
Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General,” U.S. Office of
the Surgeon General, 2014.
[iv] Zhu Shu-Hong et. al., “E-cigarette use and associated
changes in population smoking cessation: evidence from US current population
surveys,” British Journal of Medicine,
July 26, 2017.