Yesterday, at the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee hearing in Trenton, New Jersey, the focus was on a bill that would impose a wholesale sales tax of 75 percent on e-cigarettes. Although the majority of the people in attendance spoke out against this bill including ACSH s Associate Director of Public Health, Ariel Savransky the bill was passed with a 5-2-2 vote.
Some of the arguments against this bill were that it would put small and medium sized companies out of business, as they would not be able to absorb the extra costs. It would cost New Jersey tax revenue because e-cigarette users would buy their products online or in other states, and it would deter people from using e-cigarettes to quit smoking or cut back on their use of cigarettes.
However, says Ariel Savransky, it was pretty clear that the members of the committee had already decided how they would vote on this bill even before hearing what anyone who testified had to say. This was further evidenced by the fact that the one woman who spoke in favor of the bill was brought up twice by the committee to reiterate the findings of studies which had already been shown to be invalid. These included the study released by the CDC which claimed that the percentage of U.S. middle and high school students who use electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, more than doubled from 2011 to 2012.
She goes on. Their main argument was that the science is just not there to show that e-cigarettes are not harmful to their users or bystanders. But we know that the science is certainly there. And we know that they are far less risky than other tobacco products. The committee was simply using the precautionary principle to make their decision and this bill has the potential to have detrimental effects on both addicted smokers who want to quit smoking and the e-cigarette business owners who will be forced to go out of business.
Additionally, the senators rejected the claim that e-cigarettes are a method of tobacco harm reduction, arguing that they are still addictive because of the nicotine and they will hook new users. However, the research is there to show that they are 99 percent less hazardous than cigarettes and are used almost exclusively by smokers and former smokers who quit by switching to e-cigarettes. It seemed that there really was just no way to convey this point to this committee.