77% of Utah voters who were surveyed by the American Heart Association said they support a tax increase on vape products.
The association polled 798 registered voters. I wasn’t one of them, but I stand with those 77%!
Last summer, my 19-year-old daughter Katie confessed she’d secretly become addicted to vaping mango and mint-flavored juices.
She’d turned to me hoping I’d love her through her growing desire to quit.
In a flash I got a crash course in the dangerous craze sweeping our high schools and hooking our teens.
Katie joined us on the Dave & Dujanovic show, and I asked her to reflect to the day she made her first vape run.
If the state had imposed a hefty tax before she got to the store, would it have deterred her?
“If I went to the register to ring up I would have thought twice about it.”
At the time, her startup cost was in the neighborhood of $60.
Instead of $60, a vape tax would have forced her to cough up about $100.
But Katie reminded me and our listeners that a big tax would have meant major sticker shock to her ongoing expenses too.
She was already engaged in a personal Ponzi scheme, draining her gas fund to stock her secret stash of mango and mint-flavored juices.
“Then every week instead of spending $20 to $40 it was almost double that, I would have definitely been thinking twice about my decision because as a college student I don’t think I could have afforded it.
SB 37: The tax to get tough on vape bill
Katie and I sat in the back of the room during a senate hearing this week to see if Utah lawmakers would approve a bill calling for an 86% tax on vape products.
As a reporter who covered the legislature through most of the 1990s, I warned my daughter I was certain 86% wouldn’t stick. It was too high for lawmakers’ tastes and I was anticipating a compromise.
The committee unanimously sent a proposal to levy a 56% tax, equal to the tax on a pack of cigarettes, to the full senate for debate.
Katie and I are glad.
And we are pleased the bill does more than impose a tax.
It includes provisions to use millions for law enforcement to go after illegal vaping, and for health officials to regulate and monitor vape stores and will go to fund a statewide education campaign about the dangers of nicotine addiction.
And it outlaws the online sale of vape supplies, saddling someone caught using the internet to peddle the stuff with thousands of dollars in fines.
Utah voters want lawmakers to take action
It’s clear that I’m not the only parent who feels it’s time for lawmakers to act in sweeping fashion.
According to the poll released by the American Heart Association, 70% of voters surveyed want Utah’s legal smoking age to mirror the new federal law — can’t legally smoke until age 21.
64% want lawmakers to outlaw the sale of flavors at corner marts and grocery stores.
There’s a separate legislative proposal that, if passed, will sequester all flavored juices, except tobacco, to licensed specialty shops.
My daughter has often told me that taking the stuff out of convenience stores that are a block from high school parking lots will be a deterrent.
There are less than two weeks before the 2020 General Session ends.
It seems to me that lawmakers have the momentum, and the support of voters, to pass legislation that will make a difference for Utah families.
Thankfully, my daughter kicked her vape habit.
Now, Katie and I are pulling for other parents. And kids.
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