Resolution on Taxation of Smokeless Tobacco Products Versus Cigarettes

Summary

This resolution recognizes that tobacco harm reduction is a vital component in a successful tobacco control strategy.  While abstaining from all tobacco is the best way for smokers to reduce their risk of disease, state governments must also consider if those who will not abstain can reduce their risk by switching to tobacco products that present less risk. Research shows that 85 percent of U.S. smokers are unaware that smokeless tobacco products present less risk than cigarettes. Therefore, this resolution calls for transparency in terms of accurate and complete information on the relative risks of nicotine products that are not smoked. Furthermore, this resolution finds that excise taxes for smokeless tobacco products should reflect their relative risk in order to avoid arbitrary economic barriers to less risky products for consumers.

Resolution

WHEREAS, states have pursued for decades policies intended to encourage citizens who smoke to quit, and to discourage others who don’t smoke from starting; and

WHEREAS, while cigarette smoking rates have declined substantially over the period from 1965-2004, the rate of decline has slowed in recent years and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 19% of Americans continue to smoke cigarettes, which remain the most popular form of tobacco in the United States; and

WHEREAS, while no tobacco product has been shown to be safe, there is a scientific consensus that smokeless tobacco presents substantially less risk of disease and premature death than cigarettes; and

WHEREAS, this consensus includes numerous public health organizations, such as the Institute of Medicine, the American Council on Science and Health, the Royal College of Physicians, and the World Health Organization, each of which have recognized the fact that there is a continuum of risk among tobacco product types, and that the risks associated with cigarette use are substantially higher than those associated with the use of non-combustible products; and

WHEREAS, while abstaining from all tobacco is clearly the best, most effective way for smokers to reduce their risk of disease and premature death, it is appropriate to consider whether those who won’t abstain can substantially reduce their risk of disease and premature death by switching from cigarettes to tobacco products that  present less risk; and

WHEREAS, research shows that 85% of U.S. smokers are unaware that smokeless tobacco products present less risk than cigarettes; and

WHEREAS, the risk of death and disease associated with the use of smokeless tobacco products is widely accepted to be at least 90% less than that associated with cigarette smoking, yet the excise tax burden on smokeless tobacco fails to properly reflect this dramatically lower risk; and

WHEREAS, {insert state} counsels against use of excise taxes, but if they are imposed on tobacco products, they should reflect a harm reduction principle without increasing any existing excise tax rate; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky resolved in 2005 (in part) “Taxing tobacco products according to relative risk is a rational tax policy and may well serve the public health goal of reducing smoking-related mortality and morbidity and lowering health care costs associated with tobacco-related disease”; and

WHEREAS, the state of Indiana passed H.B. 1004 in May, 2011 stating that “The Indiana general assembly finds that the tax rate on smokeless tobacco should reflect the relative risk between such products and cigarettes”; and

WHEREAS, free-market solutions are consistent with the American Legislative Exchange Council’s mission; and

WHEREAS, the free market only flourishes when consumers have ample and accurate information to allow them to make decisions as well as a tax and regulatory policy that does not create economic barriers to consumer choice; and

WHEREAS, “tobacco harm reduction” is a free-market solution to a societal problem that involves policies to encourage adult smokers who are engaged in lawful but unhealthy behaviors to consider switching to a less risky behavior; and

WHEREAS, tobacco harm reduction should be achieved without increasing the excise tax burden on adult tobacco consumers; now,

Therefore, {insert state} finds:

1. Excise tax rates for smokeless tobacco products should reflect their risk relative  to cigarettes to avoid arbitrary economic barriers to less risky products for consumers.

2. Tobacco harm reduction should be included as one component of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy, complementing efforts to increase smoking cessation (or quitting) and reduce smoking initiation (or starting smoking); and

3. In addition to advising its citizens to quit using tobacco or to never start, state governments should advise current cigarette smokers that using smokeless tobacco has been scientifically shown to be less harmful than smoking cigarettes.

4. In public health communications, taxpayer dollars should be used to disseminate only accurate and complete information on smokeless tobacco products.

 

 

Approved by ALEC Board of Directors July 3, 2012.

 

 

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