Our View: We are a ‘yes’ on 1A
Eagle County didn’t take the cautious route in proposing a new tax on tobacco and nicotine products.
But while it is a bit audacious, we support passage of question 1A on this fall’s ballot
In question 1A, the county is asking voters to impose a tax of 20 cents per cigarette — that’s $4 per pack — and 40 percent on the sale of all other tobacco and nicotine products. The money raised will go to public health and education efforts.
The measure is, in large part, the county’s response to the burgeoning popularity of vaping among local youth. This behavior isn’t unique to Eagle County. A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that Colorado teens vape nicotine at twice the national average. Nationally, the parent company of grocery store chain City Market has announced that it is discontinuing the sale of vaping products.
Question 1A tax is part of the county’s three-pronged effort to battle the issue of teen tobacco and nicotine use. Earlier this year, the county raised the legal purchase age for tobacco and nicotine products to 21 years. Additionally, a new tobacco and nicotine licensing program will be instituted countywide.
But when it comes to really making an impact, there’s nothing as effective as hitting people in the pocketbook. According to a study by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes typically results in a 3% to 5% decrease in adult smoking prevalence. That same 10% increase typically results in a 6% to 7% decrease in youth smoking. Using that data as a guide, a 40% jump in price should have a marked impact on local smoking numbers.
Even as we state our support for question 1A, we want to acknowledge that this feels a bit like voting in a tax that only affects other people. According to statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, from 2015 to 2017 only around 10.2% of Eagle County’s adult population were smokers. An additional 4% of the adult male population of the county was identified as smokeless tobacco users. So, while we all get to weigh in on this new tax, nearly 90% will never have to pay it. Depending on how you look at it, that’s either a great deal or an unfair imposition.
Of course, proponents of the tax say their ultimate goal is to see no one paying the tax. Instead, they hope the high costs will spur people to give up smoking, chewing and vaping. They note that smoking cessation products such as nicotine patches, gum and lozenges are exempted from the tax.
In the end, we believe when people have to pay a substantially higher amount for a product, they think twice about whether they really want it. When it comes to a substance as addictive as nicotine and as carcinogenic as tobacco, thinking twice about buying is a very good idea.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Sales Manager Holli Snyder, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd, Business Editor Scott Miller and Director of Special Projects Edward Stoner.