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Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 12, 2014 at 4:36 PM

E-cigarettes: Much safer than cigarettes, don’t tax them

The editorial “Put heat on e-cigarettes and ‘vaping’ ” [Opinion, March 6] suggests that we should tax e-cigarettes because they represent a health hazard to teens. The problem with this logic is that the risk profiles of incinerated cigarettes and vapor cigarettes are not even on the same plane.

A 2011 study in the Journal of Public Health Policy finds that burned cigarettes create as many as 5,300 identifiable chemicals, while electronic cigarettes are almost entirely made up of three: propylene glycol, glycerin and nicotine. The authors’ review of toxicity literature finds that e-cigarettes are much safer than traditional cigarettes.

Why, then, is the policy response to attempt to tax the product out of existence? I’m sympathetic to the “better safe than sorry” approach to keeping tobacco products out of the hands of young kids, but on the other hand, taxing new tobacco substitutes would make safer options more expensive.

Why not try this transparent approach instead: disseminate clear information about relative risks of different tobacco products and let legal consumers choose — without a shove from the tax code.

Scott W. Drenkard, economist at Tax Foundation, Washington, D.C.

Comments | More in tobacco | Topics: e-cigarettes, health, Journal of Public Health Policy

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