It could get a lot more expensive to vape in Alaska, with a new tax proposed. In a bid to curb the trend of rising tobacco and electronic smoking product use among Alaskan youths, Senate Bill 89 has been proposed by Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak. It has been held to the Senate floor calendar for Tuesday.
The bill seeks to align state law with federal law by raising the minimum age to purchase, sell, or possess tobacco and electronic smoking products from 19 to 21 years. It also proposes a new sales tax on electronic smoking products.
In 2019, the federal government amended the national age limit for tobacco, nicotine, and vaping products to 21, a move overseen by the Food and Drug Administration.
The impetus behind the bill is the “Tobacco Facts 2022 Update” from the Alaska Department of Health, Division of Public Health, which revealed an increase in vaping among Alaska high school students, with 26% reported as active users of e-cigarettes in 2019. This is below the national average, which is 33% for teen e-cigarette use.
The FDA has not endorsed these products as effective quitting aids or as safe. With almost all e-cigarettes containing nicotine, and some possessing as much or more than a traditional pack of cigarettes, the long-term health impacts are unknown.
Sen. Stevens says the proposed tax is a proven method to reduce youth tobacco use, discouraging new smokers, and helping committed adults to quit.
SB 89 outlines guidelines for online sales of e-cig products and enforcing age verification and tax payment. Online vendors with 200 or more transactions in the state would be required to register with the Department of Revenue, and collect and remit the tax.
The bill would establish the Tobacco Use Education and Cessation Fund as a separate entity within the state treasury. The fund would be replenished with 20% of the annual payment from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, 8.9% of the cigarette tax, and proceeds from the new tax on vaping products.
The fund would be used by the Department of Health’s tobacco control program to prevent tobacco and e-cigarette use in schools. Marijuana and hemp products without nicotine would be exempt from the tax.
The bill also proposes to lower the maximum nicotine concentration of e-cigarettes from 60 to 50mg/ml.
If it passes the Senate, there’s not enough time for it to pass the House this year, and it would be held over until 2024.