Colorado and Oregon voters approved a measure this past November to increase taxes on tobacco products, namely an eventual 62% tax on e-cigarettes by 2027. 

According to the CDC, e-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid containing nicotine to produce an aerosol. These devices come in many different forms and flavors, and most have a high nicotine content of around 4.34%. 

E-cigarettes were originally developed as a smoking cessation device, but have since grown in popularity among young adolescents. 

In a report discussing the increase in vaping prevalence among adolescents, researchers found that the lifetime use of e-cigarettes rose 900% between 2011 and 2015 among adolescents.  

Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the potential health consequences of e-cigarettes because their brains are still developing, until approximately age 25.

Nicotine has been shown to have potential negative long-term impacts on memory and attention during brain development.

“There’s a common misperception that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes because many adolescents don’t realize the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes, like JUULs or Puff bars,” said Dr. Jessica Braymiller, a University of Southern California researcher.

JUULs are a top-selling e-cigarette among young adolescents that debuted in 2015 with flavoring pods that contained 5% nicotine strength.

According to a study from the American Journal of Public Health, 99% of e-cigarettes sold in convenience stores in the United States, supermarkets and similar outlets in 2015 contained nicotine. However, the majority of youth e-cigarette users think they vaped only flavoring — not nicotine — the last time they used an e-cigarette.

Many of these e-cigarettes use a liquid that is a salt-based nicotine solution, which allows manufacturers to pack more nicotine in the liquid without harsh effects during usage. 

According to Braymiller, the combination of fruit or mint flavors with the salted nicotine solution is much more appealing to adolescents and they can start developing nicotine dependence even at low rates of use. 

“E-cigarettes haven’t been around that long in comparison to cigarettes, so it’ll take decades to understand the long-term effects on lung and heart health,” Braymiller said.

The passage of the recent vape tax in Oregon and Colorado is an initiative to curb the rising prevalence of e-cigarette use among adolescents.

“[The tax] is a great victory for public health and tobacco control efforts in Oregon that will save thousands of lives and reduce the devastating toll of tobacco use in families and communities,” said Jamie Dunphy, Oregon government relations director for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network in a statement about the recent tax in Oregon.

She continued that e-cigarette taxes will protect young people from being targeted into a lifetime addiction by the tobacco industry. 

Product price is an important factor to a subset of users in terms of how they decide which products to purchase. 

“Taxes are a good first step in limiting youth access, but more action may need to be taken in conjunction for a more comprehensive approach,” Braymiller said.

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