E-cigarette use by kids is growing across the nation including in AZ.  A couple of weeks ago the FDA Commissioner called out the manufacturers of electronic cigarettes for their clear efforts to market to teenagers and put them on notice that additional regulations could be on the way. 

All of you reading this have seen them around these days.  They have various looks.  For example- some of the most popular ones mimic USB flash drives so that they’re easily disguised adults (teachers and parents).  They even actually plug into an USB port for charging!

Almost all of them contain nicotine which is of course highly addictive, harmful to adolescent brain development, and a health danger for pregnant women. E-cigarette aerosol can also contain cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals like lead, and volatile organic compounds. Evidence shows that even those without nicotine are harmful to the lungs.

E-cigs are now the most commonly used tobacco products among youth and young adults, with e-cigarette use growing 900% among high school students from 2011 to 2015.  In 2016, more than two million U.S. middle and high school students had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Middle aged e-cig users are quite different from younger users. Most middle aged e-cigarette users (aged 45 years and older) are either current or former regular cigarette smokers.  Less than 2% had never been cigarette smokers!  In contrast, among 18-23 year olds, 40% have never been regular cigarette smokers. A big concern is that many of these younger e-cig users will transition to actual cigarettes.

Some states have implemented legislative approaches to combat e-cigarette use. Pricing is among the most frequent interventions.  Raising the price of e-cigarette reduces demand just like for other tobacco products, especially for younger users- that tends to dominate the approaches. Legislation to increase the price of e-cigarette products fall into three categories: 1) price increases based on the current sales price; 2) pricing e-cigarettes and vapor products at the same rates as regular cigarettes; and 3) imposing a per milliliter (ml) price increase on liquid nicotine or consumable material.


Percentage Price Increases

Two states have established percentage price increases for e-cigarettes. Pennsylvania increased the price of e-cigarette products (i.e., the electronic oral device with heating coil, battery, etc., as well as the liquid or substance used in the e-cigarette) by 40%.  Minnesota increased the price of tobacco products including e-cigarette products by 95%.

Washington state introduced a bill that would raise the prices of vapor products by 60%. In New Mexico, an amendment was introduced to raise the price of e-cigarettes by 76% of the product value. This would be an increase from the current 25% set out in statute.

Legislators in New York recently introduced two bills (A011338 and S01089) to treat e-liquid cartridges as “tobacco products” and increase the price of cartridges by 75% of the wholesale price. A governor’s budget proposal in Rhode Island called for raising the price of e-cigarettes by 80% of the wholesale cost. Similarly, Kentucky proposed an amendment to increase the price of e-cigarettes by 15%.


Pricing Equalized to Cigarettes

California is adopting regulations to increase e-cigarettes prices equal to their Cigarette Distribution Tax ($0.10 per cigarette).  District of Columbia increased the price of vapor products equal with the rate imposed on a pack of 20 cigarettes.


Price Increases Per Fluid Amount

Six states increased prices of vapor products, liquid nicotine, or consumable material per fluid ml. Delaware (vapor products), Kansas (consumable material), Louisiana (vapor products and e-cigarettes), and North Carolina (vapor products) added $0.05 per fluid ml. Louisiana’s law increased the price of consumable nicotine liquid solution or other material containing nicotine that is depleted as a vapor product.

New Jersey passed legislation raising the price of nicotine liquid by $0.10 per fluid ml. West Virginia increased the price of e-cigarette liquid by $0.075 per ml.  Puerto Rico legislature approved a bill to increase the price of e-cigarettes by $3, nicotine cartridges by $0.05 for every millimeter of nicotine solution or any other substance in each nicotine cartridge, and vaporizers by $6 for every unit.

Legislation increasing the price of e-cigarettes, other electronic smoking devices, and e-liquids can encourage users to quit, seek and sustain cessation, prevent youth initiation, and reduce consumption among those who continue to use them. Many states have taken proactive steps to stem the tide using the fact that young people are price sensitive. Perhaps we’ll see some proposals from the Arizona State Legislature.  However, how successful the effort will be depends on the makeup and view of the next legislature and governor.