Pennsylvania's physicians apparently want to make sure that tobacco cigarettes maintain a competitive advantage over the much safer electronic cigarettes, based on their public policy position announced earlier this week following a conference of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. Specifically, the Society called for imposing taxes on electronic cigarettes to increase the price of these products.
Increasing the price of electronic cigarettes would of course serve as a deterrent to their use and would give tobacco cigarettes a great competitive advantage, since the lower cost of electronic cigarettes is currently a major factor that promotes switching from smoking to vaping.
In announcing its support for electronic cigarette taxes, the Pennsylvania Medical Society made it clear that it believes e-cigarettes should be treated no differently than tobacco cigarettes.
According to a Science Daily release: "The potential dangers of electronic cigarettes have members of the
Pennsylvania Medical Society concerned, and until more is known about
the products, the state's physicians believe they should be treated no
differently than tobacco products. Meeting at the Pennsylvania Medical Society's annual House of Delegates
in Hershey on October 26-27, more than 200 physicians voted to address
the issue by calling upon the state legislature to pass electronic
cigarette laws that have safeguards equivalent to existing tobacco laws,
including taxation... ."
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It baffles me why the physicians in Pennsylvania would want to encourage continued cigarette smoking by protecting cigarettes from potentially serious competition. This is a move I would have expected to come from cigarette companies (at least before they entered the e-cigarette market), rather than from medical professionals who are charged with protecting the health of their patients.
There is no question that imposing taxes on e-cigarettes will promote continued smoking. Even if the price elasticity of demand for electronic cigarettes is small, taxing these products will decrease their consumption and increase cigarette consumption, as fewer smokers will be drawn to try vaping instead of smoking.
While I certainly agree with treating e-cigarettes similarly to cigarettes with respect to minors' access, it makes no sense to treat these products the same way in other respects. By all means, we should be doing what we can to do the opposite of what the Pennsylvania Medical Society is calling for. We should be trying to give e-cigarettes a competitive advantage over tobacco cigarettes, which are the most hazardous of all tobacco products.