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Cancer Society Proposes Licenses For Tobacco Sellers

February 26, 2020

The American Cancer Society is proposing the state license every shop that sells tobacco and that the state’s tax on e-cigarettes mirror the tax on non-cigarette tobacco products, as part of suggested changes to the vaping package set for an upcoming Senate hearing.

The six-bill bipartisan package more closely treats e-cigarettes like tobacco and taxes it at 24%. It also raises the smoking and vaping age from 18 to 21, which health groups like.

It’s a “really good start,” said Andrew Schepers, director of government relations in Michigan for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), but “we have concerns that the bills lack some teeth.”

SB 0782 creates a licensing scheme for outfits that sell vaping products, which Schepers said he likes, but it should also create a license for tobacco products. He wants the two treated the same under the law “so there’s no questions.”

Michigan is one of 10 states where tobacco retailers aren’t licensed, which can create some enforcement problems amid bad actors who see the fines issued for selling to minors as “the cost of doing business.”

Also, clerks are often the ones fined for selling to minors. The stores simply fire the clerks and plead ignorance about his or her actions. Creating a licensing scheme allows the state to pull licenses over a certain period of time for those who don’t follow the rules, Schepers said.

SB 0781 sets the tax rate of vaping products at 24% of the wholesale rate, which is better than nothing. But again, Schepers said e-cigarettes should be taxed at the same 32% rate tobacco products are taxed at.

He argues that both are nicotine delivery systems. And while e-cigarettes don’t have the tar and other substances that tobacco products have, they allow users to ingest substantially more nicotine, formaldehyde and possibly heavy metals from the cartridge.

Some e-cigarettes can have three to four times more nicotine than a cigarette, which feeds a person’s addiction. 

“This is an addiction problem,” he said. “It’s like if you’re addicted to caffeine saying, ‘Why not go from coffee to Coke?'”

“We appreciate what they’re trying to do,” Schepers said. “We just want to make sure that they accomplish what they want.”

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