Anchorage Assembly moves to include vaping, e-cigarette products in tobacco tax

A person holding a silver vape pen
A person using their Juul Vape (Joey Mendolia/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly last week passed an ordinance to include vaping and electronic cigarette products under the city’s existing tobacco tax. This means tobacco vaping devices and e-cigarettes, as well as the liquids and cartridges that are used with the devices will be taxed at 55 percent of the wholesale price.

Assemblywoman Suzanne LaFrance and Assemblyman Christopher Constant proposed the ordinance to combat vaping among minors, which has seen a sharp rise in recent years. According to the American Cancer Society, one in four Alaska high school students uses vaping products. 

Traditional cigarette smoking has been declining for decades, in part because of public information campaigns, smoke-free laws and increasing tobacco taxes, said Marge Stoneking, executive director of the American Lung Association in Alaska.

“Now e-cigarettes are addicting a new generation of youth, threatening all of that progress,” Stoneking said. “Significantly increasing taxes on tobacco products results in fewer kids starting to smoke and more adults quitting while at the same time providing revenue to the municipality.”

Some vape shop owners opposed the ordinance, arguing that vaping products are helpful for adult smokers trying to kick their habit.

“Imposing this tax on something that is actually helping people get away from combustible cigarettes and actually costing the state and local resources less money seems a little problematic,” said Shaun D’Sylva, a co-owner of Fatboy Vapors in Midtown. 

According to the CDC, vaping is generally less harmful than smoking a cigarette, but both are unhealthy.

Several parents also testified in support.

LaFrance argued that the ordinance would curb youth vaping and help prevent teenagers from even starting.

“We know that this is an important step forward that will help children that will keep kids away from becoming addicted. Because this is an epidemic. It’s a problem. And we can take action with this to make it better.”

The Assembly approved an amendment to the ordinance to exclude vaping devices sold by marijuana retailers for use with marijuana products from the tax. The ordinance ultimately passed 10 to zero.