• Lindsey Stroud

Vapor Taxes Had Little to No Effect on Youth Vaping Rates

Vapor taxes are becoming increasingly popular among lawmakers as a way to combat youth vapor product use. Although addressing youth use of vapor products is laudable, excise taxes have not been effective at reducing youth vaping rates.


Tobacco Harm Reduction 101 examined vapor rates among high school students, as reported in the Centers for Disease Control’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Surveys (YRBSS) in several states that have enacted excise taxes on electronic cigarettes.


Interestingly, prior to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decrying a purported “youth vaping epidemic,” youth use of e-cigarette products declined between 2015 and 2017.


Unfortunately, of the states examined in this report, all states saw an increase in current vaping rates among high school students between 2017 and 2019. These are reflective of national data trends. In 2015, 24.1 percent of high school students reported using a vapor product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to survey, this decreased to 13.2 percent of high school students in 2017, and increased to 32.7 percent of high school students in 2019.


California

California’s tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products went into effect April 1, 2017.


According to California’s YRBSS, in 2015, 44.7 percent and 21.4 percent of high school students reported ever and current e-cigarette product use, respectively. In 2017, ever-use decreased by 1.82 percent, to 43.9 percent of California high school students, and current e-cigarette use decreased by 23.7 percent, to 17.3 percent of high school students using an e-cigarette in the last 30 days.


California was the only state in this analysis to see a decrease in 2019 rates of ever-use, with 42.3 percent of high school students reporting having ever used an e-cigarette, this is a 3.78 percent decrease from 2017, and 5.67 percent decrease from 2015 rates. Regarding current e-cigarette use, in 2019, 18.2 percent of California high school students reported using an e-cigarette on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior, this is a 4.95 percent increase from 2017 rates, but a 17.6 percent decrease from 2015 rates.


In 2019, California spent $250.4 million on tobacco control programs, or $28.17 per resident under 18 years of age.

Kansas

Kansas’ tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products went into effect July 1, 2017.


According to Kansas’s YRBSS, in 2017, 34.8 percent and 10.6 percent of high school students reported ever and current e-cigarette product use, respectively.


In 2019, ever-use increased by 28.4 percent, to 48.6 percent of Kansas high school students and current e-cigarette use increased by 51.8 percent, to 22 percent of high school students using an e-cigarette on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior.


In 2019, Kansas spent $847,041 on tobacco control programs, or $1.21 per resident under 18 years of age.

Louisiana

Louisiana’s tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products went into effect August 1, 2015.


According to Louisiana’s YRBSS, in 2017, 45.1 percent and 12.2 percent of high school students reported ever and current e-cigarette product use, respectively.


In 2019, ever-use increased by 13.3 percent, to 52 percent of Louisiana high school students and current e-cigarette use increased by 46.7 percent, to 22.9 percent of high school students using an e-cigarette at least one occasion in the 30 days prior.


In 2019, Louisiana spent $5 million on tobacco control programs, or $4.96 per resident under 18 years of age.

North Carolina

North Carolina’s tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products went into effect July 1, 2015.


According to North Carolina’s YRBSS, in 2015, 49.4 percent and 29.6 percent of high school students reported ever and current e-cigarette product use, respectively. In 2017, ever-use decreased by 12 percent, to 44.1 percent of North Carolina high school students and current e-cigarette use decreased by 33.9 percent, to 22.1 percent of high school students using an e-cigarette in the last 30 days.


In 2019, 52.4 percent of high school students reporting having ever used an e-cigarette, this is a 15.8 percent increase from 2017, and a 5.7 percent increase from 2015 rates. Regarding current e-cigarette use, in 2019, 35.5 percent of North Carolina high school students reported using an e-cigarette on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior, this is a 37.7 percent increase from 2017 rates, and a 16.6 percent increase from 2015 rates.


In 2019, North Carolina spent $2.4 million on tobacco control programs, or $1.22 per resident under 18 years of age.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products went into effect October 1, 2016.


According to Pennsylvania’s YRBSS, in 2015 40.8 percent and 23.1 percent of high school students reported ever and current e-cigarette product use, respectively. In 2017, ever-use increased by 2.4 percent, to 41.8 percent of Pennsylvania high school students, and current e-cigarette use decreased by 104 percent, to 11.3 percent of high school students using an e-cigarette in the last 30 days.


In 2019, 52.6 percent of high school students reporting having ever used an e-cigarette, this is a 20.5 percent increase from 2017, and a 22.4 percent increase from 2015 rates. Regarding current e-cigarette use, in 2019, 24.4 percent of Pennsylvania high school students reported using an e-cigarette on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior, this is a 53.7 percent increase from 2017 rates, and a 5.3 percent increase from 2015 rates.


In 2019, Pennsylvania spent $15.5 million on tobacco control programs, or $5.88 per resident under 18 years of age.

West Virginia

West Virginia’s tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products went into effect July 1, 2016.

According to West Virginia’s YRBSS, in 2015, 49.1 percent and 31.2 percent of high school students reported ever and current e-cigarette product use, respectively. In 2017, ever-use decreased by 10.6 percent, to 44.4 percent of West Virginia high school students, and current e-cigarette use decreased by 118.2 percent, to 14.3 percent of high school students using an e-cigarette in the last 30 days.


In 2019, 62.4 percent of high school students reporting having ever used an e-cigarette, this is a 28.8 percent increase from 2017, and a 21.3 percent increase from 2015 rates. Regarding current e-cigarette use, in 2019, 35.7 percent of West Virginia’s high school students reported using an e-cigarette on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior, this is a 59.9 percent increase from 2017 rates, and a 12.6 percent increase from 2015 rates.


In 2019, West Virginia spent $0 on tobacco control programs.


Reasons for Youth E-Cigarette Use


Overwhelmingly, youth are using electronic cigarettes and vapor products due to social reasons. Indeed, in youth surveys, high school students commonly report they use these products because their “friends and/or family members use them.”


For example, in 2019, 45.5 percent of Colorado high school students cited using e-cigarettes because friends and family. In 2017, 41.6 percent of Connecticut high school students reported they used a vapor product because a friend and/or family member had used them. In 2017, 33 percent of Vermont high school students cited using e-cigarettes because friends and family members used them.


Implications


Lawmakers should refrain from enacting taxes on vapor products and instead, utilize existing tobacco monies from tobacco settlement agreements and taxes on tobacco control programs, including education and prevention.


Of all the states in this analysis, California experienced somewhat of a decline in youth vapor use, but the state also spent the most on tobacco control programs. West Virginia, which allocated $0 in 2019 to tobacco control funding, saw the highest youth vapor rates.


Nothing in this analysis is intended to is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of Tobacco Harm Reduction 101. For more information on tobacco and vapor products, please visit Tobacco Harm Reduction 101 at https://www.thr101.org.


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©2020 by Tobacco Harm Reduction 101.