The campaign for the ballot measure to increase the state’s tobacco taxes, and impose a new one on vaping products that contain nicotine, launched on Thursday.
Known as Proposition EE, the measure was placed on the fall ballot by the Colorado Legislature not only as a way of generating revenue for K-12 education, but also to dissuade teens from vaping.
“By supporting this bipartisan proposition, including vaping products and a nicotine tax and establishing a nicotine tax more in line with other states, the bipartisan Proposition EE will provide critical funding across our state,” Gov. Jared Polis said at the campaign’s launching ceremony in Denver.
“Passing Proposition EE means additional funding to school districts for teachers, for school nurses, for custodians, for coaches at a time when they are facing steep budget cuts,” the governor added. “Colorado is sadly among the states with the highest rates of teen vaping in the entire country, and yet Colorado has no tax on vaping products. It’s time to close that loophole.”
Under the proposition, the state’s current 84-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes would immediately increase to $1.94 per pack, and then gradually go up to $2.64 a pack by 2027. At the same time, the state’s 40% tax on the manufacturer’s list price of tobacco products, such as cigars, would increase to 50% next year, and eventually to 62% in seven years.
Additionally, the new tax on all vaping or e-cigarette products that have nicotine would see a 30% tax of their manufacturer’s list price next year, also going to 62% by 2027.
The new tax is expected to generate about $175 million next year, and up to $375 million when fully implemented in 2027.
Revenues generated by the tax change would go to several places, including a newly created Rural Schools Cash Fund. That fund is to get up to $35 million by 2022, 55% of which is to go to larger rural schools and 45% to smaller ones.
The remainder of the money is to go to fund preschool programs statewide and tobacco education programs, many aimed at getting teens not to pick up the vaping habit.
Opponents of the measure say it imposes a financial burden on people who use nicotine products and hurts businesses that sell them. Additionally, opponents say the state shouldn’t rely on a tax that is likely to diminish because of the added cost to fund programs that likely are to grow, meaning they eventually would have to be funded through other revenue sources.
The Rocky Mountain Smoke-Free Alliance, a group that represents businesses and manufacturers of vaping products that opposes the ballot measure, said a recent Food and Drug Administration report shows that there are other ways to reduce teen use of vaping products rather than raising taxes on everyone.
That report said that about 1.8 million teenagers nationwide quit using vaping products in the past year.
“(Alliance) members share the same concerns that parents and policymakers have about youth vaping,” said alliance president Amanda Wheeler. “(The alliance) has worked with over 30 municipalities throughout the state to craft responsible vaping regulations to end youth vaping.”
The alliance says the measure doesn’t take its impact on small businesses into account, nor does it consider the impact to smokers who use vaping products as a means of quitting.