February 25, 2021
Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
From: Americans for Tax Reform
Re: HB 2876
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across Oklahoma, I urge you to reject HB 2876. This bill would implement burdensome taxes upon life-saving reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as electronic cigarettes. If enacted, it would have a disastrous impact upon not only businesses, but public health throughout the state, and lead to an increase in tobacco-related deaths – outcomes Oklahoma legislators surely do not want.
Even former President Obama remarked when he was in office: “The last thing you want to do is raise taxes in the middle of a recession because that would just suck up, take more demand out of the economy and put businesses in a further hole.” Yet HB 2876 flies in the face of that sage advice from the 44th President. Seventy-two percent of smokers are low-income. To increase taxes on people dealing with the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, while simultaneously making it harder for them to quit, will inflict additional hardship upon families who are already struggling.
The Oklahoma Legislature should embrace new methods that are proven to help reduce smoking rates, and facilitate smokers quitting through reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes. Through delivering nicotine through water vapor, 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.
It must be stressed that the negative 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.” Scientific data clearly shows that the blood levels typically achieved by consuming nicotine via harm reduction products “does not result in clinically significant short- or long-term harms” which is why smokers have been using nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) for decades without incident. 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.
Furthermore, a recent study performed by researchers at the University of Glasgow has shown that e-cigarettes particularly help disadvantaged persons quit smoking. The impacts of this on health inequalities would be monumental, however measures like HB 2876 would widen even further these socioeconomic disparities in health. Earlier this week, Public Health England also released an analysis proving that vaping products are an indispensable tool to help smokers quit that is effective than any other quitting aid: In 2017 alone, over 50,000 English smokers stopped smoking with a vaping product who would have continued smoking otherwise.
If implemented, HB 2876 would levy a 5 cents per milliliter tax on all electronic smoking devices. To tax safer products at a higher rate, thereby driving people to more deadly alternatives, goes against every principle of sound public or health policy.
As the price of a product increases, it is likely that its use decreases, which 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.
Extrapolating from a large-scale analysis by the United States’ 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, over 92,000 lives would be saved. In seeking to tax these life-saving products, these bills place these lives in jeopardy. Small increases in projected revenue should never come at the expense of human lives.
For these reasons, we you to vote against HB 2876. Close to 100,000 lives depend upon it.
Director of Consumer Issues
Americans for Tax Reform