Wisconsin Governor Evers’ “E-Cigarette Excise Tax” Will Harm Businesses, Cost Lives

April 19, 2021 

Members of the Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance 
From: Americans for Tax Reform 

Dear Representative, 

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across Wisconsin, I urge you to reject the “E-Cigarette Excise Tax”, item 16 of Governor Evers’ budget proposal that would increase taxes on life-saving reduced risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes and vapor products. If enacted, this anti-science provision would have a disastrous impact upon not only businesses, but public health throughout the state, and lead to an increase in tobacco-related mortality.  

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 Governor Evers’ “E-Cigarette Excise Tax” proposal flies in the face of that sage advice from the 44th President. As such, we strongly urge you to reject this proposal, or reject the bill in its entirety. 

Taxing safer products at such a high rate will drive people to more deadly alternatives, acting contrary to every principle of sound public health policy. As the price of a product increases its use decreases. The same occurs with taxes on vaping, which have been proven to increase smoking rates as people shift back to deadly combustible cigarettes. Minnesota is currently serving as a case study on this. After the state imposed a tax on vaping products, it was determined that it prevented 32,400 additional adult smokers from quitting smoking.  

Further, tax hikes promote black markets for smuggled products, and consistently result in revenues coming in well below revenue projections. Contrary to popular belief, tobacco smuggling is not a victimless crime consisting of someone purchasing a few extra cartons of cigarettes 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”.  

About E-Cigarettes and Vapor Products: 

  • Traditional combustible tobacco remains one of the leading preventable causes of death in Wisconsin. 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: 

  • Vapor products have been proven to be 95% safer than combustible cigarettes and twice as effective at helping smokers quit than traditional nicotine replacement therapies. 

  • 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 month, 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 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. Another new study demonstrated that high-strength electronic nicotine products are particularly helpful for smokers with mental health issues quit smoking, like people with schizophrenia who smoke at rates more than three times the national average. Some 40% of participants had stopped smoking traditional cigarettes by the end of 12 weeks and researchers observed an overall, sustained 50% reduction in smoking or complete smoking abstinence in 92.5% of participants at the end of 12 weeks. Governor Evers’ “E-Cigarette Excise Tax” will have a tremendously negative impact on public health and would fail to decrease socioeconomic disparities. 

  • 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 more than 118,000 lives if a majority of Wisconsin smokers made the switch to vaping, extrapolating from a large-scale analysis performed by leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre. 

For the reasons outlined above, in the interests of public health, preventing a boon in criminal activity, and decreasing socioeconomic disparities in health, we call upon you to accept the science and reject item 16 of Governor Evers’ budget proposal. Small increases in projected revenue must never come at the expense of human lives – and make no mistake, if this is enacted, it will cost lives. Over 100,000 lives depend upon it.  




Tim Andrews 
Director of Consumer Issues 
Americans for Tax Reform