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Counterpoint: This sin tax is not about protecting kids

When you’ve got nothing else, you’ve got to make it about the children.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed tax on vapor products of $1.25 per e-cigarette device, plus 25 cents per milliliter of e-liquid would raise the price of a 30-milliliter bottle by $8.75. Currently, a 30-milliliter bottle costs between $12 and $22, plus local and state sales taxes.

The additional revenue generated is estimated to be a mere $1 million, barely a drop in the bucket. Just last week, Ald. Proco Joe Moreno said in media reports that he sees it as a way to try to fight the increasing use of the products among teens.

OPINION

This is not about protecting the children. Electronic cigarette sales are illegal to persons under 18 in the State of Illinois, so children will not be paying this tax. But do not doubt that there will be pain.

It is the adults who have found a less harmful alternative to smoking that will be burdened. It is the smokers who might be contemplating switching to e-cigs who may look at this sin tax and be inclined to think that electronic cigarettes pose similar harm to combustible cigarettes. It is the small businesses selling e-liquid who will see a drop in business as customers turn to the suburbs to fill their e-liquid needs.

Gregory Conley, president of American Vaping Association, sums it up well in arguing that real public health advocates should see through this tactic.

“Every year, only around 3 percent of smokers who try to quit will succeed,” he says. “We need new and innovative options for the other 97 percent, not prohibitive taxes that encourage smokers to keep smoking.

Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona notes in the New York Post that youth smoking rates continue to drop at unprecedented rates, undermining the argument that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking.

Any policymaker that believes this sin tax is about protecting the children has simply not done his or her homework. It would serve to do nothing more than kill small business and keep smokers smoking. We urge the Chicago City Council to reject this vapor tax and support our efforts to provide real alternatives for smokers.

Victoria Vasconcellos is president of the Illinois Chapter of SFATA (Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association).

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