Real chance or blowing smoke? Legislators will look at e-cigarette tax changes

By  | 

BISMARCK, N.D. - Law makers are asking themselves if the state should increase the tax on tobacco and e-cigarette products. It's just one of the topics will debated in the interim.

In this April 23, 2014 file photo, e-cigarettes appear on display at a vape store in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Representative Jim Grueneich, R-Jamestown, will lead the Taxation committee. He says any legislation will have to narrow down exactly which products they're going to tax. But if they do that, then change will likely come.

When lawmakers start their interim committees, e-cigarette taxes and how far they go will be a hot topic.

"I think we have to determine what is a taxable item and what isn't and more importantly, we need to focus on the health of our kids,” said Grueneich.

Data from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed 20 percent of high school students in the United States used an e-cigarette within the last 30 days. Currently in North Dakota, e-cigs aren't classified with tobacco products.

"Which is a hindrance to being able to track them, monitor their usage, even know how much is being used within the state,” said Heather Austin, Tobacco Free ND.

Grueneich is a smoker and says he's smoked cigarettes for years. The difference between traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes is time.

“This is a relatively new product and I don't think the general public expected that our younger generation would take such a grab on it,” said Grueneich.

More research, in the U.S. and abroad, is showing people are using both kinds of products.

"Not only are you getting the bad effects from tobacco and smoke and inhaling those products, but now you're also getting a whole new set of chemicals and effects from e-cigarettes and they only overlap a little bit,” said Austin.

The state is currently collecting e-cigarette usage data for 2019. Austin says the initial trends show that usage rates are going up 900 percent with youth.