Tim Andrews

Nebraska's LB459 Would Increase Taxes on Life-Saving Products, Lead To Increase In Tobacco-Related Deaths

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021, 5:20 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform submitted testimony today in opposition to Nebraska’s Legislative Bill 459, which would increase taxes on life-saving reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes and increase the highly regressive tax on tobacco. 

ATR Director of Consumer Issues, Tim Andrews, wrote: "These anti-science provisions would have a disastrous impact upon not only businesses, but public health throughout the State, and lead to an increase in tobacco-related deaths. LB 459 also seeks to increase the highly regressive tax on tobacco, disproportionately harming the state’s most vulnerable populations at a time when they can least afford it, while doing nothing to reduce smoking rates."  

Andrews noted the ever-growing body of research showing vapor products are an effective harm reduction tool for adults looking to quit smoking: "Extrapolating from a large-scale analysis by the US's leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre, if a majority of smokers in the state of Nebraska made the switch to vaping, over 40,000 lives would be saved. In seeking to tax these life-saving products, this bill would place these in jeopardy.” 

LB 459 fails to incentivize smokers to move away from deadly combustible cigarettes. Andrews noted that "As the price of a product increases, its use decreases. In previous instances, levying taxes on vaping products has been proven to increase smoking rates as people shift back to deadly combustible cigarettes. Minnesota is serving as a case study on this already. After the state imposed a tax on vaping products, it was determined that it prevented 32,400 additional adult smokers from quitting smoking. Small increases in projected revenue should never come at the expense of human lives.

The full testimony can be found here.

Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson

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Oklahoma Legislators Should Reject Devastating Tax on Vaping

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Monday, March 1st, 2021, 4:13 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform wrote to Oklahoma legislators today in opposition to HB 2876 which would increase taxes on life-saving reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes. 

ATR Director of Consumer Issues, Tim Andrews, wrote: 

"This anti-science bill would have a devastating impact on public health throughout the State, and lead to an increase in tobacco-related deaths. Further, aside from the public health harm caused by increasing taxes on a product proven to save lives, this bill would also cause considerable economic harm, particularly given the present pandemic-related economic downturn." 

Andrews noted the ever-growing body of research showing vapor products are an effective harm reduction tool for adults looking to quit smoking: "E-Cigarettes are proven to be 95% safer than combustible tobacco and more effective than any other quit smoking aid. Extrapolating from a large-scale analysis by the US's leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre, if a majority of smokers in the state of Oklahoma made the switch to vaping, close to 100,000 lives would be saved. In seeking to tax these life-saving products, these bills place lives in jeopardy. 

HB 2876 not only fails to incentivize smokers to quit their deadly habit, it actively punishes them for doing so. Andrews noted that "As the price of a product increases, at its use decreases. In previous instances, levying taxes on vaping products has been proven to increase smoking rates as people shift back to deadly combustible cigarettes. Minnesota is serving as a case study on this already. After the state imposed a tax on vaping products, it was determined that it prevented 32,400 additional adult smokers from quitting smoking. Small increases in projected revenue should never come at the expense of human lives.” 

The full letter can be read here

Photo Credit: Vaping360.com


Hawaii Must Reject Proposed Legislation That Would Increase Tobacco Related Deaths, Destroy Small Businesses

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Wednesday, February 24th, 2021, 7:00 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform  submitted testimony today in opposition to Hawaii’s HB 598 and HB 476, which would increase taxes on life-saving reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes. 

ATR Director of Consumer Issues, Tim Andrews, wrote: "These anti-science bills would have a disastrous impact on public health throughout the State, and lead to an increase in tobacco-related deaths. Further, aside from the public health harm caused by increasing taxes on a product proven to save lives, this bill would also cause considerable economic harm, particularly given the present pandemic-related economic downturn." 

Andrews noted the ever-growing body of research showing vapor products are an effective harm reduction tool for adults looking to quit smoking: "Extrapolating from a large-scale analysis by the US's leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre, if a majority of smokers in the state of Hawaii made the switch to vaping, over 40,000 lives would be saved. In seeking to tax these life-saving products, these bills place lives in jeopardy. 

HB 598 and HB 476 fail to incentivize smokers to move away from deadly combustible cigarettes. Andrews noted that "As the price of a product increases, at its use decreases. In previous instances, levying taxes on vaping products has been proven to increase smoking rates as people shift back to deadly combustible cigarettes. Minnesota is serving as a case study on this already. After the state imposed a tax on vaping products, it was determined that it prevented 32,400 additional adult smokers from quitting smoking. Small increases in projected revenue should never come at the expense of human lives.” 

The full testimony can be found here

 

Photo Credit: Cord Cardinal


Public Health England Demolishes Anti-Vaping Misinformation

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021, 11:42 AM PERMALINK

While lawmakers and multi-million dollar anti-vaping groups in the United States continue to spread misinformation about reduced risk tobacco alternatives and seek to deny adults trying to quit smoking the opportunity to save their lives, Public Health England earlier today completed it's latest analysis on all the scientific data as it relates to vaping and its efficacy in helping smokers quit. Their conclusion - based on science and not the emotional rhetoric favored by US activists - is clear: Vaping, which is 95% safer than combustible tobacco, remains the best possible way for smokers to quit, and the evidence for this just keeps growing.

Some of the findings included:

  • Vaping is positively associated with quitting smoking successfully. In 2017, over 50,000 smokers stopped smoking with a vaping product who would otherwise have carried on smoking
  • Quit rates involving a vaping product were higher than any other method in every region in England
  • The 3 systematic reviews consistently found vaping products containing nicotine were significantly more effective for helping people stop smoking than NRT. This finding was supported by 2 non-randomised studies that reported higher quit rates among people using a vaping product who attended a stop smoking service, compared with those who used NRT.
  • Most young people who had never smoked had also never vaped. Between 0.8% and 1.3% of young people who had never smoked were current vapers.

 

The update also expressed serious concern that "perceptions of the harm caused by vaping compared with smoking are increasingly out of line with the evidence" and this is "discouraging smokers from using vaping to quit”.

Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England specifically stressed: "For anyone who smokes, particularly those who have already tried other methods, we strongly recommend they try vaping and stop smoking"

With evidence of the effectiveness of vaping now beyond all doubt, it's time lawmakers stopped trying to tax and regulate a life-saving product out of existance, and actually let smokers quit. 

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Alaska's SB 45 Would Tax Lifesaving Products, Cost Lives

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Friday, February 19th, 2021, 1:37 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today submitted testimony in opposition to Alaska Senate Bill 45 which bans the use of flavors in life-saving reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes.

ATR State Affairs Manager, Ben Rajadurai, wrote: “I urge you to reject Senate Bill 45, misguided legislation that would slap taxes on lifesaving reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as electronic cigarettes. If enacted, this anti-science bill would have a disastrous impact on businesses and public health throughout the state and lead to an increase in tobacco-related deaths.

Rajadurai noted the growing body of research showing vapor products are an effective harm reduction tool for adults looking to quit smoking and argued that taxes on these would increase smoking rates. Extrapolating from a large-scale analysis by the US’s leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre, if a majority of smokers in the state of Alaska made the switch to vaping, it would save over 13,000 lives.

HB 45 would also seek to ban remote and online sales. Rajadurai noted that these bans “would significantly reduce one’s access to these lifesaving products should they reside in rural and remote areas of the state. If enacted, these persons, often in lower socioeconomic demographics and at the highest risk of smoking related mortality, would have no choice but to continue smoking combustible tobacco. Small increases in projected revenue should never come at the expense of human lives."

The full testimony can be read here.

Photo Credit: Dalem

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New Mexico's HB 205 Would Increase Tobacco Related Deaths & Devastate State's Economy

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Thursday, February 18th, 2021, 2:57 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today submitted testimony in opposition to New Mexico House Bill 205 which bans the use of flavors in life-saving reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes.

ATR Director of Consumer Issues, Tim Andrews, wrote: “This bill would have a disastrous impact on public health throughout the State, and lead to a clear increase in tobacco-related deaths in New Mexico.”

Andrews noted the growing body of research showing vapor products are an effective harm reduction tool for adults looking to quit smoking:

“Extrapolating from a large-scale analysis by the US’s leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre, vapor products would save over 52,000 lives if a majority of New Mexico smokers made the switch to vaping. This bill places lives in jeopardy by reducing access to these life-saving products.”

HB 205 would also seek to ban the use of flavors such as menthol in traditional cigarettes. Andrews noted that bans on menthol cigarettes “would also come with significant negative consequences for the state, with no evidence whatsoever that they have any effect in reducing smoking rates. Real world evidence from Massachusetts proves that such bans are counterproductive in that while they have no impact on smoking rates, they come at significant cost to the economy, harm the most vulnerable in society, and provide a boon for criminal syndicates and black market smugglers”.

The full testimony can be downloaded here.

Photo Credit: A4GPA

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UK: Bipartisan Inquiry Into The UN's Harmful Anti-Vaping Regulations

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021, 4:43 PM PERMALINK

With growing international recognition of the danger to public health the World Health Organization poses, it is pleasing to see that across the pond a bi-partisan committee has been established to launch an inquiry into the scandal-prone taxpayer-funded bureaucracy. 

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping, comprised of Members of Parliament across all sides of politics, is currently collecting evidence on the failures of the UN's anti-tobacco harm reduction policies

The Americans for Tax Reform Affiliate, the Property Rights Alliance, submitted the following testimony to the Inquiry (full version with citations may be downloaded here): 

 

29 January 2021

Subject: Comments to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping Inquiry into the Ninth Conference of the Parties

Dear Chairman Pawsey,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping (APPG) inquiry into the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9).

Property Rights Alliance (PRA) is an international advocacy and research organization based in Washington, D.C. dedicated to protecting intellectual property rights, physical property rights and promoting innovation around the world.

1.UK Government policies should promote the successful quit aid tools.

There is a consensus in the United Kingdom among academics, scientists, and the medical community that reduced-risk tobacco alternatives such as vaping e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes. Extensive research by Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians has determined that by providing users with nicotine, but bypassing the combustion process that is the main cause of tobacco-related morbidity, electronic cigarettes are 95% less harmful (Public Health England, 2018) than combustible tobacco. For this reason, over 30 of the world’s leading public health organizations have endorsed nicotine vaping as safer than smoking and an effective way to help smokers quit.

In addition to their relative safety compared to combustible tobacco, scientific data support the function of vaping products as a successful quit aid tool considerably more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapies. A 2019 study by the U.K. National Health Service published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes may help adults quit. A group assigned to e-cigarettes as a combustible tobacco replacement were more likely to remain abstinent at one year compared with a group using nicotine replacement products (18% versus 9.9%).

According to a report commissioned on e-cigarettes by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2018) which analyzed the findings of 800 peer-reviewed studies, it was determined that there is moderate evidence that risk and severity of dependence are lower for e-cigarettes than combustible tobacco cigarettes. and that there is conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes from combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces a user’s exposure to numerous toxicants. The published update of the Cochrane Collaboration review in October 2020 also showed that e-cigarettes helped smokers to achieve long-term smoking abstinence.  It assessed the results of 50 studies from across 13 jurisdictions, representing 12,430 participants.

As a result of their effectiveness as an aid to quit smoking, e-cigarettes have become extremely popular, increasing from about seven million users in 2011 to 41 million in 2018 (Euromonitor International). Over the next 10 years about six million premature deaths could be averted, if most smokers switched to e-cigarettes.With the introduction of e-cigarettes, a rapid drop in the smoking rate has coincided from 19.3% in 2010 to 13.7% in 2018.

Public Health England has played a significant role in advancing evidence-based policymaking and ensuring that alternative nicotine delivery devices, which are less harmful than smoking, are available to smokers who are trying to quit. As such, this is in line with Government Policy to reduce mortality rates.

The FCTC has as its mission to ‘protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke …. to reduce continually and substantially the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.' Policies enacted under this framework must therefore aim to actually reduce smoking prevalence. Evidence has demonstrated that recent policies promulgated have not only strayed from this goal but are in active opposition to it.  While the UK has played a positive role in terms of reducing the burden of people smoking, and with e-cigarettes helping millions of adult smokers quit smoking, it is disturbing that the World Health Organization thus far refuses to acknowledge the science and is actively advising governments against effective tobacco harm reduction policies.  The government of the United Kingdom should promote harm-reducing practices within the WHO discussions and reduce barriers to access innovative products that are game-changers for smoke-free policies. Any measures that COP9 will propose should recognize the data presented and consider the UK national experience.

The United Kingdom, as a global leader in tobacco control, can ensure that regulatory measures are based on sufficient and convincing data. This is the only case to implement realistic measures to each country that will be efficient. A general idea about the protection of public health is not enough. The reports to COP9 will likely continue to recommend that countries either ban new harm reduction products or regulate them strictly to discourage their use. An example of strict regulation is the Plain Packaging implemented for tobacco, which has been conclusively proven to have failed to have any impact upon smoking rates in any jurisdiction where it has been tried but has instead led to a boon in black market illicit tobacco smuggling by international criminal syndicates.  

2.The discussions within the WHO and COP do not reflect real-life evidence.

The policy positions presented by WHO should be based in realistic and accurate criteria about tobacco consumption and efficacy of harm reduction tobacco products. A procedure based in transparency and public consultation will contribute more to the goal of smoking reduction. The Advisory Bodies (TobReg and TobLanNet) and the Governing body of COP should collect data from independent scientific teams and make them visible to countries like the UK. Similarly, it is a fundamental principle of good government that decisions be made in an open, accountable, and transparent manner. Unfortunately, COP meetings operated behind closed doors, with no opportunity for journalists, scientists or non-profit watchdogs to observe or participate.  Furthermore, there is no public consultation between the release of the Secretariat report and the COP session. WHO should make transparency part of their policy.

As most anti-tobacco policies and legislation ratified under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) aim to reduce smoking prevalence, the justification of COP proposals should be formed based on the smoking rate of each category (adults, youth etc), the tobacco consumption and the success of the quit aid tools in each country. Massive bans or brand removals are trade tactics oriented towards the market structure and not the protection of public health. Prohibition time and time again has been shown to fail.

In contrast to the “abstinence only” policy of the WHO, Public Health England (PHE) has offered guidance for employers and organizations looking to introduce policies around e-cigarettes and vaping in public and recommends that such policies should be evidence-based. This is a more sensible system of regulation, which works with consumers to ensure better public health outcomes. It is noted that the UK government can further improve some aspects of its tobacco policy and the constraints (health warnings and advertising ban) imposed by the EU Tobacco Products Directive should be removed so as to ensure smokers have access to appropriate information regarding the health benefits of quitting smoking through vaping.

3.The tobacco control policies for adolescents and the unintended consequences of proposals.

In the UK, the rate of minors using vape products has consistently been below 2 percent.Data from the 2019 ASH YouGov Smokefree youth GB survey suggest that a large majority (93.8% in total) of children ages 11-18 in the UK who have never smoked have also never used an e-cigarette (87.8%) or are not even aware of them (6.0%). The overall trend in tobacco use over time in both adults and children has been downwards since 2010, when e-cigarette use became widespread among adult smokers and ex-smokers (Adult smoking habits in the UK, 2017-2018). A 2018 report by Public Health England found that e-cigarettes are attracting very few young people who have never smoked into regular use and that e-cigarette use among never-smokers is less than 1%. A possible flavor taste ban is a policy measure hurting the public health and the UK Government should be aware of the unintended consequences of such measures. Governmental policies should protect young people and at the same time provide a cessation aid for people attempting to quit smoking. 

The United Kingdom followed the European Tobacco Products Directive in response to the WHO’s call to action in preventing youth from using tobacco products. In a framework of going completely ‘smoke-free’ by 2030, the UK banned the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes since 20 May 2020, despite the lack of evidence of flavored tobacco being responsible for any increased tobacco usage. Alternative products such as menthol vaping products  are still available in the market. In some countries such as Netherlands, the Government proposed banning flavors in electronic vaping products as well, a measure that failed to consider the public health benefit of a harm reduction tool.

Flavors must remain available through legal channels as a matter of consumer safety. Otherwise, the black-market will flourish while putting dangerous products in the hands of thousands of consumers. Banning vape flavors practically misinforms smokers about the relative risks of e-cigarettes and limits the usefulness of vaping. Significantly more adults and youth may go back to smoking combustible tobacco. According to the Consumer Choice Center, access to flavors increases the likelihood of quitting smoking by 230% and 260,363 vapers would be driven back to smoking without them.

According to the ASH Smokefree Great Britain 2019 Survey, if the flavours were banned, 1 in 5 smokers said they would either smoke more tobacco or return to smoking tobacco. A US 2017 survey of young adults using both e-cigarettes and vaping products, indicated that a ban on e-liquid flavors would lead to increases in combustible cigarette use and simultaneously lead to reductions in e-cigarette use. As such, any proposals through the COP process to further restrict access to flavoured vaping products would without doubt lead to an increase in people smoking combustible cigarettes.

4.WHO bans the use of tobacco harm reduction tools, moving away from FCTC objectives.

According to the latest Global State of Tobacco Harm reduction (GSTHR) report(GSTHR, Burning Issues 2020) almost 100 million people are now using a range of vaping products and they do not use combustible cigarettes at all. The evidence provided by this report shows the effect of harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes on the global decline in cigarette consumption per adult.

On the contrary WHO in its latest report from their expert committee on Tobacco Product Regulation, released December 23rd, recommended to ban and prohibit e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (WHO Expert Committee Meeting Report, Dec 23, 2020). This recommendation conflicts with the FCTC protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products that aimed at eliminating all forms of illicit trade in the tobacco environment. The banning of vaping products would lead the smokers to purchase their e-cigarettes from illicit markets or from jurisdictions where they are legal. Public health may be damaged with a sharp rise in smuggling and sale of illegal e-cigarettes. Illicit trade of e-cigarettes is a mounting problem across the globe that hurts economies and also may be used to fund terrorist and similar criminal enterprises. Furthermore, it ignores the scientific evidence provided indicating the power of vaping products to increase quit rates more effectively or to modify behaviors associated with combustible cigarettes.

Despite the fact that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aims to reduce harmful tobacco consumption, there have only been a few attempts to empirically evaluate the impact of this international treaty. Unfortunately, there is no empirical interventional study to evaluate the effectiveness of the decision to adopt a tobacco control treaty as a strategy for reducing global cigarette consumption. Analysis of tobacco consumption trends is necessary to discern patterns for future tobacco control policies including the different priorities of each country’s strategy. No internationally comparable data on tobacco consumption are available for analysis by quasi-experiment. An interdisciplinary and international collaboration is necessary under the WHO, setting down standards for research and assessing risk and benefits.

Among FCTC’s mandates was the investigation of novel tobacco products. The FCTC is not a good forum for encouraging new ideas. The investigation by FCTC apparently is limited to strict regulations of tobacco products that often referred to the products as a “serious barrier to progress”.There is a persistent problem with the WHO relying on poor evidence or the motivated reasoning of activists. The WHO Executive Board 146th session meeting (February 2020) called for countries to ban or restrict the use of e-cigarettes and novel and emerging tobacco products. FCTC has examined a limited amount of scientific evidence and, by their own admission, “international scientific consensus was not yet reached”on the existing health effects.

WHO should take a fresh look at the function of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool and accept the progress that the tobacco industry has made in developing products that are able to significantly reduce smoking. Science should come first in every health issue or situation. The pandemic crisis confirmed this statement. Policies of WHO, including plain packaging and banning of vaping products, damage Intellectual Property Rights and innovation. States can protect public health without damaging private property right protections and security of innovation. Tobacco control should be a social, public health, and quality-of-life concern rather than a business and trade issue.

5. Intellectual Property Rights are significant for the innovative harm-reducing products.

E-cigarettes became possible only due to strong intellectual property rights in a competitive open market. Intellectual property rights connect innovators with consumers’ demand for harm-reducing products. States can protect public health without compromising the protection of private property rights and market-driven innovation. The effective protection of intellectual and property rights is essential and can promote investment in the market.

When a ban in tobacco products is introduced, the right to property (Article 1, First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights) is weighed against the legitimate interest of public health. The rationale for the health function of banning vaping products contradicts the overwhelming evidence on e-cigarettes as the most successful quit aid. It is a discriminatory measure for consumers, who are denied the access to products with reduced risk. It may support some fundamental rights including the right to health and a clean environment, but it unduly violates the right to liberty, property and equality. Practices like these, discourage investment and put businesses at risk of losing their competitive edge. Policies that undermine innovation often have unintended consequences, and Property Rights Alliance opposes all measures that have irreparable harm to intellectual property.

6. Conclusion

The initial intention of the COP process was to reduce tobacco dependency and the associated mortality caused by the smoking of conventional tobacco products. In actively opposing the opportunities presented by newer reduced-risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes, the World Health Organization is now actively working against its stated mission. It is furthermore deeply troubling that independent scientific experts remain excluded from the COP9 process, and the complete lack of transparency and consultation violate every norm of sound public policy.

As a result of the WHO pursing a policy agenda that is contrary to science, the UK faces significant threats that its successful harm reduction model may be undermined, and access to life-saving products may be restricted. As such, unless the UK and like-minded pro-science governments are able to achieve serious structural reform in the WHO, the UK needs to re-evaluate its participation in the FCTC.

Thank you very much for considering our comments. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

Respectfully submitted,

Chrysa Kazakou
Non-Resident Fellow

Tim Andrews
Director of Consumer Issues

 

Photo Credit: US Mission Geneva

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Victory for Consumers, Science in New Hampshire

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021, 8:12 PM PERMALINK

In a victory for evidence and common sense, the New Hampshire Senate Commerce Committee yesterday voted to dismiss SB 62, legislation that would have banned flavored reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes. Contrary to arguments made by special interest groups, these innovative products have proven critical to the process of helping adults quit smoking, while having no impact whatsoever on youth vaping rates.

Testimony presented to the committee demonstrated how, if enacted, SB 62 would have had a disastrous impact on businesses and public health throughout the Granite State, leading to widespread layoffs and business closures, as well as a clear increase in tobacco-related mortality.

It is becoming all too common for legislators to ignore science and data, and impose bans and regulations with disastrous consequences.

Consumers across the Granite State thank Commerce Committee Chair Harold French, Vice Chair Bill Cannon, and Senators Jeb Bradley and Kevin Cavanaugh for following the evidence and for their service!

You can download ATR's submission setting out the evidence here

Photo Credit: Dave Barger

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Letter: Wyoming Lawmakers Must Oppose Tax Grab On The Most Vulnerable

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Thursday, January 28th, 2021, 10:27 AM PERMALINK

In a letter to the Wyoming House of Representatives, Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform expressed strong opposition to HB 55, which would increase taxes on the state’s most vulnerable residents as they are already struggling with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

HB 5, which would increase the highly regressive tobacco tax by 40%, would do nothing to reduce smoking rates. Instead, it would benefit criminal syndicates who use black market tobacco to fund organized crime and terrorist activities. 

Even worse, this bill would increase taxes on smokers who transition to reduced risk alternatives such as snus, doing irreparable harm to public health and the effort to reduce smoking rates. Users of snus have at least 90–95 percent less smoking-related mortality, and the FDA authorizers manufacturers to market their product as one that would “reduce your risk of cancer.” To increase taxes on these products, leading to more people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes, would violate every rule of public health policy. Small increases in projected revenue should never come at the expense of human lives. 

You can read the letter here:

January 25, 2021

To: Members of the Wyoming House of Representatives 
From: Americans for Tax Reform
Re: Oppose House Bill 0055

Dear Representative,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across Wyoming, I thank you for your public service in these challenging times and urge you to use the 2021 legislative session to enact policies that will help households and employers recover from the pandemic-driven downturn. By crafting a new budget that avoids tax increases, you can send a clear message to job creators, investors, and site selectors that Wyoming will remain a no income tax state with a competitive tax climate. Not even a pandemic-driven recession can change that.

As such, it is of the utmost importance that you oppose all efforts to raise taxes, including House Bill 0055. If implemented, this bill would increase the highly regressive tobacco excise tax on cigarettes and moist loose tobacco, disproportionately harming the state’s most vulnerable populations at a time when they can least afford it.

Data from the National Adult Tobacco Surveys has consistently demonstrated that tobacco tax increases have no statistically significant impact on the prevalence of smoking among those with household incomes of less than $25,000. Seventy-two percent of smokers are from low-income communities, and to increase taxes on people unable to quit as they are struggling with the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic will put unnecessary hardship upon families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Further, cigarette tax hikes promote black markets for smuggled tobacco products – often run by sophisticated, multi-million-dollar criminal syndicates – and consistently result in revenues coming in far lower than projected. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, when neighboring Utah raised their tobacco tax, smuggling doubled to over 20% of the market. In other states it is as high as over 50%. As a result, only three out of the 32 state tobacco tax increases studied met tax revenue estimates. For this reason, economists and tax policy experts view cigarette taxes as unsound policy.

In addition, increasing the tax on smokeless tobacco would do irreparable harm to public health and the effort and objective of reducing smoking rates in Wyoming. According to the peer reviewed Harm Reduction Journal, “literature reviews have estimated that users of snus have at least 90–95 percent less smoking-related mortality, with minimal reduction in life expectancy, if any at all. The health benefits of smokers who completely transition to snus use are similar to those reported for smoking cessation.”

As a result, the FDA has authorized manufacturers to market their product with the following statement: “Using General Snus instead of cigarettes puts you at a lower risk of mouth cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.” To increase taxes on a product authorized by the FDA as a reduced risk product – leading to more people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes – would violate every rule of appropriate public health policy. Small increases in projected revenue should never come at the expense of human lives. 

ATR opposes House Bill 0055 and urges you to vote NO. If you have any questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me or Tim Andrews at tandrews@atr.org or 202-785-0266.

Sincerely,

Grover Norquist
President
Americans for Tax Reform

 

Photo Credit: Ken Lund

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Maryland's Proposed Death Sentence for Smokers and Businesses

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Wednesday, January 27th, 2021, 7:20 PM PERMALINK


The Maryland Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing on two bills, SB 177 and SB 273, tomorrow that pose a significant threat to the state's economy and also public health.

These bills, sponsored by Democratic Senators Mary Washington & Benjamin F. Kramer, not only go against all science and evidence, but also go against calls from groups as diverse as the ACLU and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership who note similar proposals "disproportionately impact people and communities of color" .

If passed, the direct consequences of these bills would be: 

*More people smoking combustible cigarettes, and dying as a result.
*Businesses closing down, and thousands losing their jobs as a result.
*A boon for  international criminal syndicates and black market smuggling operations often used to fund terrorism.
* Harm minority communities, and jeopardize relationships between vulnerable groups and law enforcement.

In fact, according to modeling compiled by some of the world's leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Center, these bills could cost close to 150,000 lives.

We explain why in this testimony
 

January 26, 2021

Maryland Senate Finance Committee
Miller Senate Office Building,
11 Bladen St., A
Annapolis, Maryland,

Members of the Senate Political Subdivisions Committee,

I thank the Committee for the opportunity to present this testimony on behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a non-governmental non-profit organization which advocates in the interests of taxpayers and consumers throughout the United States. ATR offers the following testimony in opposition to SB 177 & 273, which seek to restrict access to life-saving reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as electronic cigarettes. These include bans on flavors, restricting entry to vape stores without electronic ID verification, forbidding online/remote sales, and pre-empting the FDA’s authority on component and ingredient disclosure. If enacted, these bills would have a disastrous impact upon not only businesses, but public health throughout the State, and lead to a clear increase in tobacco-related mortality. SB177 also institutes a ban on all flavored conventional tobacco products, such as menthol cigarettes, which would have a disastrous impact on the Maryland economy and state finances, lead to a boom in illicit smuggling operations, and cause significant harm to minority populations. Given the significant overlap between these two bills in regard to flavors of reduced risk tobacco products, this submission will address these bills in tandem.

The smoking of traditional combustible tobacco products remains one of the leading preventable causes of death in the State of Maryland. It is noted, however, that the negative health effects of smoking combustible tobacco come not from the nicotine, a relatively benign, yet highly addictive substance much like caffeine, but rather the chemicals produced during the combustion process – “people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar”. For this reason, nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine patches and gums have been used to help smokers quit for decades. 

In more recent years, technology has developed to allow for the creation of more effective alternative nicotine delivery systems, colloquially known as e-cigarettes or personal vaporizers. Through delivering nicotine through water vaper, these mimic the habitual nature of smoking, however, the absence of “smoke” leads to the absence of the carcinogens created through the combustion of tobacco. As a result, these have been overwhelmingly proven to be 95% safer than combustible cigarettes, while least twice as effective as more traditional nicotine replacement therapies. For this reason, over 30 of the world’s leading public health organizations have endorsed nicotine vaping as safer than smoking and an effective way to help smokers quit. This list includes Cancer Research UK; the British Medical Association; the British Lung Foundation; the New Zealand Minister of Health; the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; the American Association of Public Health Physicians; the Royal Australian College of Physicians; the French National Academy of Pharmacy; and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.

It is further noted that studies have repeatedly shown that flavors, which these bill seek to ban, are critical to helping adult smokers make the switch to vaping, and that adults who used flavored e-cigarette products have been found to be more than twice as likely to quit smoking combustible cigarettes than adults using non-flavored vaping products. Multiple studies have shown that banning all flavors in e-cigarettes (except tobacco flavor) would result in a decline in the use of e-cigarettes and an increase in the smoking of deadly combustible cigarettes. This deadly shift would occur because flavors “contribute to both perceived pleasure and the effort to reduce cigarette consumption or quit smoking.”  One such study found a simple ban on all flavors but tobacco in e-cigarettes would increase smoking by 8.3 percent. In addition, Public Health England canvassed a number of vaper surveys and found that “banning flavored liquids would deter them [vapers] from using vaping products to help them quit or reduce their smoking. It could also push current vapers towards illicit products.” Public Health England therefore concluded that, “a ban on flavored liquids could have adverse effects and unintended consequences for smokers using vaping products to quit.” Concerning, one nationwide British survey from 2019 found that if a vaping flavor ban were enacted, then 25 percent of vapers would still try to get flavors through the black market. Nearly 10 percent who use flavored liquids said they would stop vaping, and 20 percent said that they would either smoke more tobacco or return to smoking tobacco entirely.

While flavors in vaping products are critical in helping adults quit smoking, the evidence also demonstrates that they play no role in youth uptake of vaping.  A 2015 survey of nonsmoking teens aged 13-17 found interest levels in flavored e-cigarettes at 0.4 out of a possible score of 10. Additionally, fewer than a third of high school students self-report to care about flavors. Academic studies have found that teenage non-smokers’ “willingness to try plain versus flavored varieties did not differ” and a mere 5 percent of vapers aged 14-23 reported it was the different flavors that attracted them to e-cigarettes. It is also worth noting that, despite media reports to the contrary, data from the National Youth Tobacco Surveys demonstrates that youth dependence on nicotine in US high school students has not increased since the introduction of these products to the market.  

We would also like to draw the committee’s attention to the fact that other aspects of SB 273, such as the prohibition on online or remote sales, and the requirement of certain products to be sold to certain stores would significantly reduce access to persons in rural and remote areas of the state. Were these restrictions enacted, these persons, often in lower socioeconomic demographics and at the highest risk of smoking related mortality, would not have access to these reduced risk products, and would have no choice but to continue smoking combustible tobacco.

The Food and Drug Administration already requires that every legal nicotine vapor product in the country undergo a lengthy pre-approval process by this May. Part of this review process requires an FDA determination that the continued availability of a vaping product is appropriate for the protection of public health. Without an FDA approval, the product cannot be sold to consumers. It is, as such, inappropriate for the State to attempt to pre-empt the FDA’s authority on component and ingredient disclosure.

Extrapolating from a large-scale analysis by the US’s leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre, if a majority of Maryland smokers made the switch to vaping, close to 150,000 lives would be saved. In seeking to reduce access to these life-saving products, these bills place these lives in jeopardy.  

ATR further submits that in addition to the public health disaster that reducing access to reduced risk tobacco alternatives will unleash, these proposals would also have devastating consequences on businesses, at a time they can afford it least. At a time of great hardship due to the Convid-19 pandemic, a bill which would effectively outlaw sections of the Maryland economy costing jobs and business owners their livelihoods, would have a devastating impact in terms of its economic cost. 

In addition to the flavor bans imposed by SB 273 and SB 177 on reduced risk tobacco alternatives, SB 177 extends flavor prohibition to menthol cigarettes and other conventional tobacco products. Similar to bans on flavors in reduced risk tobacco alternatives, these would also come with significant negative consequences for the state, with no evidence whatsoever that they have any effect in reducing smoking rates. To the contrary, real world evidence from Massachusetts demonstrates that such bans are counterproductive and come at significant cost.

Since Massachusetts implemented a ban on all flavored tobacco products in the middle of 2020, cross-border purchases and the creation of a booming black market have more than made up a decline in sales in the Commonwealth. In the first since months since the ban was enacted, Massachusetts retailers have sold 17.7 million fewer cigarette packets compared to the same six months in the prior year, while neighboring Rhode Island and New Hampshire have combined to sell 18.9 million more as Massachusetts residents stock up across state lines. The loss to the state, already in the midst of a fiscal crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, has thus far been a staggering $73,008,000. Given fewer than $5 million of the over $500 million the state collects in tobacco excise is spent on smoking cessation programs, the remainder allocated to the general fund, this shortfall will likely lead to further tax increases, hurting struggling families and businesses even further, and there is little doubt a similar effect would occur in Maryland.

While the states of Rhode Island and New Hampshire have been some of the biggest beneficiaries of Massachusetts’ ban, collecting close to $50 million in additional revenue, criminal syndicates have also benefited. Contrary to popular belief that tobacco smuggling a victimless crime consisting of someone purchasing a few extra cartons across state lines, in reality most tobacco smuggling is run by multi-million dollar organized crime syndicates. These networks, who also engage in human trafficking & money laundering, have also been used to fund terrorist and the US State Department has explicitly called tobacco smuggling a “threat to national security”.

It is also worth noting that paradoxically these bans may therefore increase youth smoking in Maryland. By definition criminals and smuggles are unlikely to obey laws and would not follow rigorous age-verification requirements mandated at reputable outlets.

In addition to lost revenue the financing of criminal activities, and potential increase in youth uptake, another adverse effect of these bans is the disproportionate harm it inflicts upon minority communities. Approximately 80% of blacks and 35% of Latinos who choose to smoke prefer menthol cigarettes, and black adults are 60% of cigarillo and non-premium cigars smokers, with these products often flavored. For this reason, civil liberty organizations such as the ACLU and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership oppose flavor bans as they “disproportionately impact people and communities of color.”

For the reasons outlined above, in the interests of public health, protecting the Maryland economy, and preventing the spread of smuggling cartels and the disproportionate targeting of minorities, we call upon the Committee to accept the science and vote against SB 177 & 273.

Sincerely,

 

Tim Andrews
Director of Consumer Issues
Americans for Tax Reform

Photo Credit: Lindsay Fox


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