Kentucky lawmakers propose vape tax

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.-Vaping continues to be wildly popular among Kentucky youth.

In the latest attempt to keep teens from using vaping products, some Kentucky lawmakers along with public health officials and advocates are seeking to tax electronic cigarettes at the same rate as regular cigarettes.

The added tax would slightly increase the cost of e-cigarettes which lawmakers hope will reduce teen vaping and raise badly needed state revenue. The owner of a vape shop in Bowling Green has doubts that adding this tax will solve the state’s issues with underage tobacco use.

“How is a 27 and a half percent tax going to solve this problem. This is not about helping children. This is about trying to get the vapor industry out of Kentucky,” said Sam Freeman, owner at Vapor Remedy.

Unlike real cigarettes, vapor cigarettes don’t burn tobacco. Vaping is widely marketed as an alternative to tobacco, putting the two industries at odds.

“At 27 and a half percent, it would be very hard for Kentucky businesses to be able to compete, when people can buy something on the internet without absolutely no tax,” said Freeman.

A report released this year by the state Substance Abuse Prevention Program shows that the amount of Kentucky’s middle school and high school students using e-cigarettes has nearly doubled since 2016. The CEO at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky finds this fact alarming.

“One of the biggest issues we see today in Kentucky is the addiction to vaping or e-cigarette products among our youth. Among kids 18 or younger,” said Ben Chandler, CEO at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

While critics of vaping and vape products often mention that the industry seems to target young children with candy flavoring, Sam disagrees.

“Maybe we should get rid of strawberry margaritas, or piña coladas or something like that,” said Freeman.

Thursday the House economic and Consumer Police subcommittee of the House Oversight and Reform Committee is holding a hearing on e-cigarette company JUUL and the youth nicotine epidemic.