The proposed policy was introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and is designed to reduce the use of e-cigarettes amongst young people. Last Wednesday, officials at the Chicago Department of Health were joined by the Chicago Public Schools Chief Health Officer Kenneth Fox and public health advocates at a press conference to discuss the new tax.
If the proposed bill passes, the tax will go up to $1.50 per device and $1.20 per milliliter of e-liquid.
Current taxes are of 80 cents per vaping device or container and 55 cents per milliliter of nicotine-containing e-liquid, and according to a review by the Tax Foundation in March they are some of the highest in the country. If the proposed bill had to pass, the tax would go up to $1.50 per device and $1.20 per milliliter.
Chicago Department of Public Health director Julie Morita, said that the danger that the devices pose for youngsters, make the decision easy. “The evidence is anything but clear in terms of the value of the products in terms of helping adults cease the use of tobacco. We’re not willing to sacrifice the future of our children for the potential that these products might help adults give up the habit,” she said.
Can high taxes be counterproductive?
However, in line with previous research, Ball State economist Erik Nesson is questioning whether pricier e-cigarettes may push people back to smoking. “I think this is definitely a concern!” Nesson wrote in an email. “We don’t have a definitive answer on what the health effects of restrictions on e-cigarette use, through bans on their use in certain areas or through tax increases, might be.”
Matt Maloney, the director of health policy at the Chicago-based Respiratory Health Association, supports the proposal, and rejects the idea the tax could be counterproductive. “It’s a reminder that the city and the state have made great strides in terms of reducing tobacco use,” Maloney said.
Consumers may turn to the black market
On the other hand, in line with what many public health experts keep pointing out, data from around the world keep indicating that consumers’ response to raising prices on vaping products or making them unavailable tends to be turning to contraband products.
Such patterns have also been observed in relation to electronic cigarettes, in countries such as the US and Australia, where the products have been banned or over regulated. Many vapers who had been using the products for smoking cessation purposes, grew desperate and resorted to purchasing the products on the black market where they are unregulated, hence possibly highly unsafe.