Measure 4 Tax Hike Is Wrong to Lump in Vaping


Vapor Stars co-owner Derick Bernier fills a tank for a vapor pen at his Grand Forks store Tuesday. phtoo by Eric Hylden/Gran dForks Herald

A group calling itself Raise It for Health put Measure 4 on our statewide ballot for November. The title of the group speaks to the measure’s intent, which is to promote public health through tax hikes on tobacco products, including a massive 400 percent increase in taxes on cigarettes.

But is it really about health? In a letter to the Grand Forks Herald published last week David Sweanor and Kenneth Warner – the former an adjunct professor of law and a member of the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, the latter a professor of public health at the University of Michigan – point out that by lumping vaping in with tobacco products the Measure 4 folks aren’t exactly promoting what’s best for public health.

About 20 percent of North Dakotans still smoke. Smokers who cannot or will not stop using nicotine can substantially reduce their risk of disease and premature death by switching to products that do not burn, such as nicotine replacement therapies, low-nitrosamine smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes.

The authors say they support increasing taxes on cigarettes and other traditional tobacco products – a stance I do not share with them – but add that targeting vaping “protects cigarettes rather than health.”

I hope that’s a point which reaches voters.

The anti-tobacco zealots behind this measure have become so myopic in their crusade that they would attack not just tobacco use but anything which even looks like tobacco use. Like vaping which, thought he nicotine comes from tobacco, is not the same thing as smoking a cigarette at all.

It is, as the letter authors note, a much healthier alternative to smoking. One we shouldn’t lump in with cigarettes when making public policy.