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Higher tax on e-cigarettes may do more harm than good

Congress should reconsider its proposal and focus on encouraging people to move toward reduced-risk, noncombustible products.

U.S. Congress Votes to Raise Smoking Age To 21
Vaping and e-cigarette products are displayed in a store.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

A proposal before Congress will create a financial disincentive for those who are looking to wean themselves off traditional cigarettes, by imposing higher taxes on potentially less harmful alternatives such as non-combustible products or e-cigarettes.

Researchers have found that by making less harmful alternatives more expensive, smokers would return to more harmful cigarettes or turn to the illegal market. Pushing consumers toward the illegal market potentially exposes them to even greater harm and results in the loss of tax revenue.

Illinois already has a thriving illicit market in traditional cigarettes due to their higher taxes. We do not need to see government action pushing and growing the illicit market.

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We would strongly encourage Congress to reconsider its proposal and focus on encouraging people to move toward reduced-risk, noncombustible products.

Rob Karr, president and CEO, Illinois Retail Merchants Association

Follow your own rules

I recently attended a Blackhawks game at the United Center. As a lifelong fan, I was excited to go as it was my first time in attendance since before the pandemic. I was also very happy about the COVID-19 protocols that the United Center advertised as having in place to keep everyone safe, including mandatory proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test, and required masking except for when actively eating or drinking.

When I arrived, there was somebody checking the photos of everyone’s vaccination card, but not checking any ID. I could have shown a photo of my neighbor’s or my cousin’s vaccination card and he wouldn’t have known the difference, so I’m sure there could have been many offering fake “proof” of compliance. Once inside, I saw many people with masks down or even maskless, with no food or drink in sight, and zero enforcement. I am considering asking for a refund of my tickets for the remaining games.

Two nights later at a performance of “Paradise Square” as part of the Broadway in Chicago series, there were multiple people checking proof of vaccination or negative test as well as a corresponding ID. The audience was far more respectful of masking requirements, and on the rare occasions I saw patrons not wearing masks properly, I saw ushers approach them to address the issue.

United Center, take a lesson from Broadway in Chicago on how to do it correctly.

Reid Spears, Plainfield