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Californians Favor Taxing E-Cigarettes

A large majority of Californians think electronic cigarettes contribute to nicotine addiction among young people and would like to regulate them, according to Field Poll results released on Monday.

According to the poll:

  • Almost three-quarters of those surveyed (74%) would like to regulate and license e-cigarette sales in a similar style to traditional cigarette sales;
  • That same 74% of Californians surveyed said they would support a tax on e-cigarettes;
  • About 70% of respondents said they want e-cigarettes to be regulated similarly to traditional cigarettes; and
  • A majority of respondents (57%) said they would support a law restricting flavors in e-cigarettes to reduce their appeal to young people.

Strong public support for regulation of electronic cigarettes runs counter to the outcome of a series of anti-tobacco and e-cigarette bills proposed and failed in the Legislature.

The most recent e-cigarette legislation would have subjected e-cigarettes to the public-use laws regulating traditional cigarettes. SBX2-5, by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), passed in special session but did not get enough traction for a floor vote. That bill, since it was part of the special session on health, still could be in play when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 2.

Kula Koenig, government relations director for the California chapter of the American Heart Association, said the disconnect between public opinion and action in the Capitol Building in Sacramento has to end.

“The tobacco industry is working very hard in the (Capitol) building and they have a tremendous amount of influence,” Koenig said. “We want officials to listen to what people have to say, rather than what big tobacco has to say. We want them to focus on what the public wants and what’s good for public health, rather than the [pro-tobacco] donations.”

Anti-tobacco activists are planning to put an initiative on the November 2016 to impose a new tax on cigarettes. That would apply to e-cigarettes, as well, Koenig said. She said it can be frustrating to go up against the tobacco lobby in Sacramento.

“I was walking around the halls [of the Capitol Building] and thinking, ‘We’re public health! And what they do is push their back-room deals and strong-arm people.’ But we just keep chipping away at it.”

She hopes the Leno e-cigarette bill will be revived at the start of 2016. “Our hope is that it will be taken up in January, that’s what we’re working on,” Koenig said.

“Let’s not wait for more data to come out showing us how dangerous they are before we regulate,” she said.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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