Anchorage Vape Tax: 55% on All Vape Products
The Anchorage Assembly recently voted to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products leading to a new 55% tax on all vapes sold in the city.
The Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the classification, which already exists for traditional tobacco products like cigarettes and pipe tobacco. The motion to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products were made by two members of the Assembly, Assemblywoman Suzanne LaFrance, and Assemblyman Christopher Constant.
LaFrance and Constant introduced the motion in an attempt to curb use among young people. According to the Alaskan Department of Health and Social Services, teens are more likely to be vapers than smokers.
Fighting Teenage Vaping
The new tax on vapes in Anchorage was not part of the recent wave of new taxes voted on by several states in the 2020 Election. While states like Oregon and Colorado imposed new taxes on e-cigarettes and vaping accessories, the vote in Anchorage was a local affair. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and its large population has seen an increase in vaping, especially among young people.
As of 2016, the state has seen an overall increase in e-cigarettes among all groups:
- E-cigarette use has increased among adults from 1% in 2010 to 7% in 2014
- E-cigarette use has increased among high school students to 18% in 2015
- More young people in Alaska vape (18%) than smoke (11%)
This rise in teenage vaping in Alaska is only compounded by the fact that the state is one of the few remaining states to allow people 19 years of age to legally buy e-cigarettes. Taken together, along with the recent EVALI outbreak that occurred last winter, Anchorage Assembly members decided to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products in an attempt to lower those rates. This was the stated goal of Assembly members LaFrance and Constant who introduced the motion into the ten-member body.
Anchorage, Alaska, has passed a bill to tax e-cigarette products like other tobacco products. Because of their novelty, most states don't tax e-cigarettes as tobacco products: https://t.co/bHWPpjBPhr
— Prevention AA (@PreventionAA) November 15, 2020
Other Parts of the Motion
The motion had initially included recreational cannabis products. The bill was amended, however, after challenges were made to that section of the bill. Recreational marijuana is legal in Alaska, and, like other states where taxes on vapes were increased, cannabis sales and products are taxed separately from tobacco and even alcohol.
Anchorage’s alcohol tax, which takes effect Feb. 1, 2021, is expected to bring the Municipality of Anchorage around $12-$13 million in tax revenues. https://t.co/3ywWccLjcF
— Alaska's News Source (@AKNewsNow) November 29, 2020
Even though the aim is good, spending ‘future’ non-existing yet money sounds a bit strange.
With new money from an alcohol tax, Anchorage will fund a team of mental health first responders that can take the place of a police officer when responding to someone in crisis: https://t.co/WuEOLHmEJ2
— Anchorage Daily News (@adndotcom) November 24, 2020
Once cannabis items were removed, the ten-member body consisting of an even number of Republicans and Democrats voted unanimously in favor of the new tax. The motion was supported by several anti-tobacco and anti-vaping groups including the American Cancer Society as well as several parents who were at the assembly when the motion was passed.
While some tax ideas failed. Tobacco taxes appeared to pass.
Oil tax initiative fails, pushing back on where to look for new sources of revenue in Alaska Legislature – Anchorage Daily News https://t.co/wwi4M82O0j
— US News Rank (@UsNewsRank) November 18, 2020
What Do Alaskan Vapers Think
The reaction from Alaska’s vaping community was mixed. News of the tax hike spread swiftly online including on Reddit and other online vaping forums. Many vapers opposed the new measure, while others struck a more conciliatory tone, meaning that they saw no problem with the new tax.
Some users commented that the law should be updated to include “new technology” meaning e-cigarettes. Others saw the tax as a misguided attempt to curb teenage vaping that would only drive people back to traditional cigarettes.
Harm reduction was also brought up, but by those who opposed the tax as well as those who supported it. Some said the tax was an assault on the harm reduction effect of vaping, while others claimed that the tax would reduce the harm of vaping on teenagers.
What’s Next For Vaping In Alaska
The new 55% tax only applies to retailers in Anchorage, but neighboring cities and municipalities also have similar taxes. While there is no state-wide vape tax in place, the state does tax cigarettes, which are some of the lowest in the country. There is no word yet on whether other Alaskan municipalities will be following in the footsteps of Anchorage.
A Tax question is a serious deal. We should all care about as we are not only paying taxes but also have a right to take part in deciding how to spend them.
Learn more on protecting vaping taxes here
This is an amazing report/Q&A (whatever you want to call it) on vaping and tobacco harm reduction by @Protectaxpayers Senior Fellow @Tim_Andrews. A must read for EVERYBODY! https://t.co/dfLfG6zacg pic.twitter.com/xish6yRV34
— David Williams (@tpapres) December 1, 2020