District 29 Sen. David Blount of Jackson plans to introduce once again a bill during the 2021 legislative session that would increase the tax on e-cigarettes and other vaping products.
“I am going to try again,” he said. “I think that vaping products should be taxed like other tobacco products. They’re a nicotine delivery system, are addictive and ought to be taxed like cigarettes. Right now, they’re taxed like a bag of chips or a candy bar, just with regular sales tax.”
The Senate killed Blount’s bill last year on a 31-21 vote on the chamber floor. The bill required a three-fifths majority to pass. Blount had filed a motion to reconsider.
E-cigarettes are not taxed like other tobacco products because they didn’t exist when the original law that set the tax on tobacco products was passed, he said. The tax in Mississippi on a pack of 20 cigarettes is 68 cents, which is among the lowest in the country.
Blount said the tax he proposes on e-cigarettes would increase the cost and that could help curb teen and under-age vaping, which is a problem in the state. “The price would be a factor and make it clearer that this is a nicotine delivery device like cigarettes and not a safe alternative,” he said.
Educators and school administrators consider vaping a major problem among young people, he said. “I’ve heard that from school administrators around the staff and public health professionals,” he said.
Blount said he would encourage Republicans who opposed the bill last year to talk to their constituents about vaping and consider changing their minds. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, e-cigarettes are becoming the first form of nicotine use for middle- and high-school students, with many students turning to them as a “safe” form of nicotine. In 2018, 38 percent of Mississippi high school students had tried e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are sometimes referred to as e-cigs, vapes, e-hookahs, vape pens or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Some look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Some resemble USB flash drives, pens and other everyday items.
E-cigarette advertising is designed to appeal to youth with e-cigarette liquids marketed in candy and dessert flavors, according to the health department.
The nicotine in e-cigarette liquid is identical to that in conventional cigarettes and the use of e-cigarettes can lead to nicotine addition and to conventional cigarette smoking, according to the health department.
Nicotine can harm brain development, which continues until about age 25, according to the health department.