Vt. lawmakers discuss taxing e-cigarettes - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers discuss taxing e-cigarettes

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Health professionals warn about the dangers of e-cigarettes, but users say they're the healthier choice. Now lawmakers must decide whether to tax them.

"Normal cigarettes seem disgusting to me now, said Frances Russell, an e-cigarette smoker.

Russell is trying to quit smoking. She says after three weeks of swapping e-cigarettes for traditional cigarettes, her breathing has improved.

Russell is smoking more frequently, but says she's already cut back on the strength of her new fix.

"So far this has been the best way for me not to smoke real cigarettes," said Russell.

E-cigarettes heat a nicotine solution and deliver the drug via water vapor. Those looking to quit try to wean themselves to just water vapor; others are simply trying to switch habits.

"I think the product is a dangerous one," said Sen. Jon Campbell, D-Windsor County.

The Vermont Legislature is considering a proposal to tax the product at a rate level to the regular tobacco tax at 92 percent.

The measure passed in the House, and Senate President Pro Tem Campbell wants to see it become law. He says not enough is known about the health consequences and argues the highly toxic vials can kill if accidentally ingested.

"I know that will not make some people happy, but when it comes down to the safety of children, it means a lot to me," said Campbell.

"We should be cautious about taxing a product that we think might be getting some folks off of tobacco," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

The governor says he's heard stories of e-cigarettes helping folks quit, and says the state shouldn't regulate it out of fear of the unknown.

In Burlington, Garcia's Tobacco Shop Manager Robert Ronci says prices will nearly double. He says taxing the product makes sense; it's the rate that doesn't.

"The bigger picture is that we're taxing something at 92 percent to begin with," said Ronci.

Ronci says the tax is regressive with much of the tax dollars coming from the state's poorest individuals. Russell says she'll keep puffing e-cigs and doesn't think she can afford a price hike, but says her lungs can't afford going back to traditional cigarettes.

The taxes would be applied on the wholesale level with costs passed on to consumers. Proponents do concede the concentrated solution could be fatal if swallowed, but point out that many common household items are as well.

Both the American Heart Association and American Lung Association have warned against the use of E-cigarettes.

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