Oregon voters will decide next week whether to increase the tobacco tax.
Measure 108 would also tax nicotine vaping products just like traditional cigarettes. Currently, e-cigarettes are not taxed.
The “Yes on 108” campaign says the measure would reduce youth vaping and the increased revenue would help fund health care for low-income families.
The proposal would add $2 to the cigarette tax, sending the cost to $3.33 a pack.
Vaping products would be taxed at 65% of their wholesale cost.
However, John Charles, with the Cascade Policy Institute, says it’s unfair to smokers.
And he questions whether it’s the best way to pay for the Oregon Health Plan.
“‘The proponents of this say they care about public health and they care about reducing smoking,” Charles said. “But, if they’re wildly successful and smoking drops to zero, then they will have no money for this expansion of the Oregon Health care Plan or funding of the ongoing plan.”
St. Charles Health System is among the supporters of the measure.
President and CEO Joe Sluka formally endorsed the measure in an email last week.
“As it stands now, Oregon doesn’t tax nicotine vapes one penny and has some of the lowest tobacco taxes in the country,” Sluka wrote. “We find this concerning since youth vaping in our state has increased 80 percent in the past two years alone. Tobacco companies are targeting kids with candy-flavored vapes that taste like gummy bears or cotton candy and are selling them for as little as 99 cents. According to the Journal of American Medicine, young people who vape are nearly three times more likely to start smoking cigarettes.
According to the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet, 90% of the funds raised from the tax would support the Oregon Health Plan and other medical assistance programs; 10% would fund tobacco cessation and prevention programs.
Measure 108 was referred to the ballot by the 2019 legislature.