California has a high number of activists pitching anti-smoking laws and measures. After a decade of efforts, Proposition 56 could dramatically increase tobacco taxes, as well as the ones for e-cigarettes, previously unaffected by these measures.
The voting is scheduled in November and should the ballot measure be passed, the Golden State will follow the example of five others: Kansas, Minnesota, Louisiana and North Carolina. California has the largest population in the U.S. and it could represent an example for all the others undergoing the debate on public health vs. the vaping industry.
Other attempts to raise taxes happened in 2006 and 2012, but the propositions were not passed. The increase in taxes could cost the vaping industry $2 to the current tax per cigarette, which is only 87 cents per pack. The state is the 37th in the U.S. regarding the tax per pack, and activists believe that even a 10-percent increase in the tax would be responsible for a 5-percent decrease in consumption.
The sum of $56 million was raised on behalf of the vaping industry in order to make the proposition fail, while activists only managed to raise $22 million, thus being outraised by 2.5 times despite of their tremendous support from research facilities, medical and educational groups and even the billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.
The activists complain about the minions and other friendly cartoon characters appearing on e-cigarette labels. According to them, the marketing efforts are oriented toward the youths, who are easier to convince, with the intention of turning them into customers.
"We're facing a particularly alarming new public threat with the rising popularity of electronic cigarettes, especially among our youth," said Dr. Ted Mazer, elected president of the California Medical Association.
The excise taxes will be increased on distributors, as well as state and local sales. Currently, the electronic cigarettes are only subject to sales taxes. The proposition supporters also underline that California, as well as Hawaii, has raised the minimum legal age to buy cigarettes to 21 years. As the state considers that e-cigarettes are no different from tobacco, they have also been banned from all public spaces, from institutions to restaurants.
Most of the Californian tobacco consumers smoke cigarettes, having one of the country's lowest smoking rates among adults. According to the California Department of Public Health, no more than 12 percent of the state's adults consumed cigarettes in 2013. The number is particularly low, considering that in 1988 the percentage was double.