When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie revealed his proposed budget for the next year, small-government proponents decried the largest-ever payout to public pensions. As the state continues to parse through the proposal, some are objecting to the increase in taxes on e-cigarettes that will make them as expensive as the real thing.
New Jersey was one of the first states to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public, and the state now proposes to tax them as much as regular cigarettes. According to the Star-Ledger, individuals who have been using e-cigarettes to quit smoking see this as a dangerous move that could discourage smokers from trying to quit with this new method. At Wednesday’s Assembly Budget Committee, one New Jersey resident called the tax “reckless and harmful” and testified to having quit smoking thanks to the small electronic vaporizers.
The e-cigarette tax would increase to $2.70 under the new budget, which concerns supporters of e-cigarettes who warn that the tax will discourage their use. On the other side of the debate, one Assemblyman, Democrat Daniel Benson, expressed concern that a lower tax on e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes would be “sending a message out there that they’re somehow safer.”
While research on e-cigarettes is limited due to how new they are to the market, the first study on their ability to help individuals quit smoking found that they are as efficient as nicotine patches in helping smokers quit. As they filter the smoke into vapor, they are far less toxic than traditional cigarettes and significantly reduce the effects of second-hand smoke. Researchers caution, however, that there is limited research on how e-cigarettes affect smokers in the long term.
New Jersey was one of the first states to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public, joined more recently by the cities of Los Angeles and New York in doing so. Just as the New Jersey State Assembly debates the matter, the state of Utah is also considering a tax on e-cigarettes, though not a ban on their use in public. Washington State is also contemplating a tax that would make e-cigarettes the same price as regular cigarettes.
New Jersey is the least economically solvent state in the nation, according to a study by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, and has seen its debt rise exponentially over the past year. The tax on e-cigarettes is part of a budget the Christie administration hopes will steer the state in a more fiscally responsible direction, raising revenue in order to pay the prodigious pension contributions promised to government workers.