Focusing on youth vaping, Alaska Senate passes tax and age limits, sends invoice to Home

The Alaska Senate on Tuesday handed a invoice that might impose the state’s first-ever tax on digital cigarette merchandise.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, spoke throughout ground debate in favor of the measure, Senate Invoice 89, on behalf of its sponsor, Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak.

“It is a vital public-health measure, Mr. President,” Kiehl stated, addressing Stevens. “This invoice will not be a income raiser. That is about decreasing the quickly rising dependancy of younger individuals, particularly our excessive schoolers, to nicotine. We’re already at one in 4, Mr. President. We have to take these steps.”

Kiehl was referring to information from the 2022 Alaska Tobacco Info Replace, launched in December by the state Division of Well being, exhibiting that as of 2019, 26% of Alaska highschool college students used e-cigarette merchandise.

The invoice would impose a 25% tax on the retail degree on e-cigarette merchandise, together with liquids and supply units. Elevating the worth by way of the tax would discourage youth use, Kiehl stated. “As soon as somebody is addicted, they have a tendency to not be terribly delicate to cost. However younger people who find themselves not but addicted are,” he stated.

Alaska’s tobacco tax has not modified since 2006, a time earlier than use of e-cigarettes, also referred to as vaping, turned frequent. The present state tax doesn’t embody any provisions for e-cigarette merchandise, although a number of municipalities impose their very own native taxes on these merchandise.

Thus far, Senate Invoice 89 is the one tax invoice to achieve both ground of the Legislature within the 2023 session.

The invoice additionally raises the state’s minimal authorized age for the acquisition of e-cigarette merchandise to 21, matching the federal minimal age as laid out in a invoice referred to as Tobacco 21, or T21, that was signed by President Donald Trump in 2019. And it consists of some new security necessities for shipments of vaping liquids

A collection of electronic cigarette products confiscated at various schools is seen on Tuesday in the state capitol. The products were collected by Tim Lamkin, an aide to Senate President Gary Stevens, sponsor of a bill aimed to reducing youth use of e-cigarette products. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
A group of digital cigarette merchandise confiscated at numerous colleges is seen on Tuesday within the state Capitol. The merchandise had been collected by Tim Lamkin, an aide to Senate President Gary Stevens, sponsor of a invoice aimed to decreasing youth use of e-cigarette merchandise. (Picture by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

The tax would usher in over $3.2 million within the first yr, an quantity that might improve barely in later years, in accordance with the Alaska Division of Income. Most of that cash would go into tobacco cessation and prevention funding, as is already the case with current tobacco tax revenues.

The invoice handed by a 14-6 vote on Tuesday. If the Home doesn’t move it earlier than Wednesday’s adjournment of the present legislative session, the measure may very well be thought of in subsequent yr’s session.

An analogous Stevens-sponsored invoice handed the Legislature final yr by broad margins in each the Senate and Home, however Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed it final September. On the time, the Republican governor stated he objected to the brand new tax that the invoice would impose.

Two of the opponents of each this yr’s model and final yr’s model, Sen. Mike Bathe, R-Wasilla, and Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, expressed their very own objections to the thought of a brand new tax. They spoke throughout ground debate Monday, when amendments had been thought of, and on Tuesday, simply earlier than the vote.

“I’m not prepared to start out including taxes till the fiscal plan parts begin transferring by way of this physique,” Hughes stated throughout Tuesday’s ground session.

She and Bathe raised another objections, together with issues that members of the army who’re youthful than 21 can be denied the complete rights of maturity.

Stevens and different invoice proponents have argued that e-cigarette corporations are concentrating on youth with commercial and product design, together with candylike and fruity flavors in vaping liquids.