KY groups debate E-cigarette tax effects on public health, state budget
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - When it comes to e-cigarettes, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky reports teens are vaping more than ever.
"We have seen just epidemic growth, among high schoolers," Bonnie Hackbarth, Vice President of External Affairs at the Foundation, said. "A 78 percent increase. Among middle schoolers, [It's] 48 percent and that's really just since the summer."
Troy LeBlanc, who owns Derb E Cigs Vapor Store, said that is a problem.
"We are 100 percent against teen vaping," LeBlanc said. "Since day one, before it was a law, we haven't allowed teens into our stores to purchase e-cigarettes. We made an 18-plus rule before it was even a law."
While both agree it isn't a good idea for teens to use e-cigarettes, they differ on how to get them to stop.
The foundation is proposing an excise tax in Kentucky because e-cigs only face a sales tax right now.
"Right now, they're given preferential treatment and our belief is that youth will reduce their smoking if the price of these products is more expensive," Hackbarth said.
LeBlanc said stores that sell to teens, including grocery and convenience stores, need to face stricter enforcement to curb the problem.
"To make sure the stores that are selling these products are held accountable, not taxing them so that they're out of reach for people who truly need them," LeBlanc said.
He adds those are people using e-cigarettes at incremental nicotine levels trying to quit smoking.
"The most rewarding part of my job is seeing someone come in and say I'm not a customer anymore," LeBlanc said.
The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky disagrees.
Members said e-cigarettes have yet to be approved as a cessation tool, and can be a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes.
Hackbarth said the revenue source could help fill state budget shortfalls, but critics said it would just drive sales online, shifting tax revenue away from the state and potentially hurt the budget.
Hackbarth adds that there is no proposed bill related to this heading into the next legislative session, as it isn’t a budget year, but lawmakers could decide to file one if deemed necessary.
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