Americans for Tax Reform wrote to Idaho legislators this week, urging them to vote in favor of S 1087, legislation that would protect Idaho businesses and consumers from harmful taxes and regulations by retaining regulatory consistency across the state regarding tobacco policy. The full letter can be read below.
To: Members of the Idaho House
From: Americans for Tax Reform
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across Idaho, I urge you to support S 1087, a pro-taxpayer reform that would protect Idaho businesses and consumers from harmful taxes and regulations imposed by local governments on reduced risk tobacco alterantives. Retaining regulatory consistency and uniformity throughout the state in terms of tobacco policy will safeguard Idaho residents from poorly thought-out local restrictions, or tax grabs to raise further revenue from some of your most vulnerable constituents.
The pre-emption provisions included in S 1087 are vital to protect both public health and the economy of Idaho. It is the fundamental responsibility of state governments to protect their citizens. At times, these threats can come from local government officials. In the instance of tobacco harm reduction policies, local government officials, acting without the degree of scrutiny and accountability found at the state level, may impose punitive taxes on the most vulnerable in their communities without thinking of the hardship this may cause for both employers and consumers. Similarly, lacking the expertise in healthcare policy, such local restrictions and levies may act contrary to all available science and data, serving to restrict the ability of smokers to quit smoking with the help of reduced risk tobacco alternatives.
Even if imposed at a city or county level, these regulations would have the capability to negatively impact the entire state. For instance, increasing taxes would lead to an increase in smuggling and the sale of illicit products, adversely affecting state tax collections while increasing criminal activity. Restricting the use of electronic cigarettes, proven 95% safer than traditional combustible tobacco and twice as effective as more traditional nicotine replacement therapies, would lead to further strains on the state budget due to the healthcare costs incurred by people prevented from using them to quit smoking.
S 1087 would also prevent localities from enacting highly regressive taxes on cigarettes. 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.
State budgets would also be negatively affected through the forgoing of tax revenue through state income taxes caused by a burgeoning black market that would be caused through the smuggling of illicit products between different jurisdictions and sold without appropriate state taxes being paid. As such, protecting citizens from these policies is not only the moral thing to do, but also in the direct interest of lawmakers in Boise.
It is important to note that, contrary to some arguments made by opponents of this bill, “local control” at its core is about safeguarding individual liberties and restricting the growth of government; it is not a free pass for cities to do whatever they want. Localities are just as capable of being conduits for heavy-handed laws that will harm citizens. When that is at stake, state action is not only appropriate to safeguard individual freedoms – it is essential.
About E-Cigarettes and Vapor Products:
Traditional combustible tobacco remains one of the leading preventable causes of death in Idaho. The negative health effects of combustible tobacco come from the chemicals produced in the combustion process, not the nicotine. While highly addictive, nicotine is a relatively benign substance like caffeine and nicotine use “does not result in clinically significant short- or long-term harms”.
Nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine patches and gums have helped smokers quit for decades. In recent years, advancements in technology have created a more effective alternative: vapor products and e-cigarettes. These products deliver nicotine through water vapor, mimicking the habitual nature of smoking while removing the deadly carcinogens that exist in traditional cigarettes.
Benefits of E-Cigarettes and Vapor Products:
Vaping has been endorsed by over 30 of the world’s leading public health organizations as safer than smoking and an effective way to help smokers quit.
Just last week, a new analysis by Public Health England demonstrated just how effective vaping is in helping people quit smoking, noting that in just one year, over 50,000 British smokers, who would have continued smoking otherwise, quit smoking with vaping.
Studies have repeatedly shown that flavors, which S 1087 would stop localities from banning, are critical to helping adult smokers make the switch to vaping. Adults who use flavored vapor products are 43% more likely to quit smoking than an adult who uses un-flavored products, according to a recent study from ten of the world’s top experts in cancer prevention and public health.
A University of Glasgow study showed that e-cigarettes particularly help disadvantaged persons quit smoking. S 1087 will have a tremendous impact on public health and would decrease socioeconomic disparities significantly.
Evidence demonstrates that flavors play no role in youth uptake of vaping. Academic studies have found that teenage non-smokers “willingness to try plain versus flavored varieties did not differ” and a mere 5% of vapers aged 14-23 reported it was flavors that drew them to e-cigarettes. National Youth Tobacco Survey results have shown no increase in nicotine dependency among youths since flavored products entered the market.
Vapor products would save over 36,000 lives if a majority of Idaho smokers made the switch to vaping, extrapolating from a large-scale analysis performed by leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre.
S 1087 would protect consumers and businesses across Idaho, ensure state tax collections are not depressed by misguided local taxes and regulations, and would prevent a patchwork of ordinances that would make Idaho a more expensive place to do business, all while also damaging public health. Americans for Tax Reform believes it is imperative for state lawmakers to use their power to safeguard their constituents from harmful policies. As such, I urge you to support and vote in favor of S 1087.
Director of Consumer Issues
Americans for Tax Reform