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Tax Vaping, Promote Cigarette Sales

A woman smokes a Juul e-cigarette. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

From a new study:

We explore the effect of e-cigarette taxes enacted in eight states and two large counties on e-cigarette prices, e-cigarette sales, and sales of other tobacco products. . . . We simulate that for every one standard e-cigarette pod (a device that contains liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes) of 0.7 ml no longer purchased as a result of an e-cigarette tax, the same tax increases traditional cigarettes purchased by 6.2 extra packs.

A pod is generally considered equivalent to one to two packs’ worth of cigarettes in terms of nicotine. And in terms of danger, of course, consuming nicotine via cigarettes is far worse. So that’s a huge result.

Honestly, I’m skeptical of the size of the effect; it suggests that vaping not only substitutes for smoking, but substantially reduces overall nicotine consumption. Some people do use vaping to quit nicotine altogether, of course, but its relative safety can also cause people to vape more than they’d otherwise smoke. I have a hard time believing that stopping one pod sale causes six packs of cigarettes to fly off the shelves.

But the basic thrust of the finding — that there is, in fact, a whole lot of substitution — is consistent with other research on this topic, not to mention common sense and the testimonials of countless former smokers. The war on vaping not only impinges on personal freedom but also likely does more harm than good.