Legislative Priority #10: E-Cigarette Regulation and Taxation
By Alisa Pierce


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Goal: Create an excise tax to deter youth buying e-cigarettes and use the funding to increase vaping prevention and cessation programs.

Impact: Tobacco is another area in which the Texas Medical Association has made big strides after several multiple sessions of hard work, and the battle now continues to bring regulation and taxation of e-cigarettes on par with other tobacco products.

John Michael Austin, a second-year medical student at University of Texas Health San Antonio medical student remembers thinking that his generation would be the one to end tobacco use.

Mr. Austin, who grew up participating in state-mandated programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), saw himself and his peers avoid smoking, which they had learned often came with negative side effects, like cancer and heart disease. Traditional cigarettes, they knew, were harmful. But what about electronic cigarettes?

Back in 2012 as the popularity of traditional cigarettes dropped over the years, rates of electronic cigarette use – also known as vape pens, e-hookahs, and vapes – began rising, and quickly. By 2021, one in every 20 middle school students in the country vaped regularly, according to the Journal of Pediatric Health Care. Peaking in eleventh grade, another recent study found that 8.6% of high school students vape regularly.

As of this year, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among teens. What’s more, nearly 31% of the students surveyed reported using multiple products, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is "particularly concerning" as that has been linked to nicotine dependence and sustained use in adulthood.

E-cigarettes are bringing nicotine back from the brink and into the hands of students around the country, says Mr. Austin, a member of TMA’s Council on Legislation.

“I'm in one of the first generations of medical professionals that have seen my classmates get hooked on e-cigarettes and not be able to stop using them,” he said. “We had all these classes about not smoking, and we saw a massive drop in smoking among children my age. Then e-cigarettes came out and it seemed like all the steps forward that we'd taken were completely erased.”

Their popularity among youth can be partly blamed on the fact that they are subjected to the same sales tax as candy and dental floss, making them affordable for students, says TMA lobbyist Matt Dowling. Some are also often designed to look like school supplies, like pencils, and are made to include fruity flavors which appeal to younger customers.

As e-cigarette use continues to climb, TMA leaders say new tactics are needed to combat teen vaping.

The next step: create an excise tax and fund vaping prevention and cessation programs.

“For a conventional pack of 20 cigarettes, the tax is $1.41,” Mr. Dowling said. “We want to be able to add a tax that would be at parity with that on a percentage basis, which would be 30%. So, it'd be a 30% tax on e-cigarettes.”

As of this year, Texas does not have an e-cigarette tax. Along with e-liquids, they do not meet the definition of a cigarette, so they are not subject to the cigarette tax. However, they are subject to state and local sales taxes.

Revenues collected from vape and e-cigarette taxes could be used, depending on the jurisdiction, to fund smoking prevention and cessation programs and educate the public, especially students, on the dangers of such products.

This, says Mr. Dowling, would be key to fighting teen nicotine dependence.

“We want these programs to be well funded to ensure teens and other vulnerable Texans have the support they need to quit.”

As more studies continue to uncover the long-term dangers of vaping – which has been shown to be associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, lung disorders, and adverse effects on fetuses during pregnancy – Mr. Austin is convinced an excise tax is a step in the right direction.

“You're seeing kids that don't have the decision-making capacities that they will as an adult becoming hooked on a substance that we don't know the long-term effects of. That’s the big thing that’s concerning to me.”

Last Updated On

January 06, 2023

Originally Published On

December 21, 2022

Alisa Pierce

Reporter, Division of Communications and Marketing

(512) 370-1469
Alisa Pierce

Alisa Pierce is a reporter for Texas Medicine. After graduating from Texas State University, she worked in local news, covering state politics, public health, and education. Alongside her news writing, Alisa covered up-and-coming artists in Central Texas and abroad as a music journalist. As a Texas native, she enjoys capturing the landscape on her film camera while hiking her way across the Lonestar State.

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