Health Experts Concerned After New Oklahoma Bill Lowers Taxes On Certain Tobacco Products

Thursday, May 20th 2021, 9:40 pm


Health advocates worry an Oklahoma bill passed Thursday could make tobacco products and e-cigarettes easier for kids to get.

Supporters of the bill said the products just aren’t the same. The American Heart Association said the bill is a huge missed opportunity to tax e-cigarettes and other synthetic nicotine products the same way as regular tobacco products.

Senate Bill 1078 passed Thursday afternoon after passing the Oklahoma House. Sarah Rivin, the director of Government Relations with the American Heart Association, has been watching this bill closely.

"We are likely the first state to roll back this definition of tobacco related to tobacco taxes," Rivin said. "It changes the definition of tobacco products in terms of how they're taxed and actually will exempt certain products from being taxed as tobacco products in the state of Oklahoma."

Under this bill's language, certain tobacco taxes would be lowered. E-cigarettes - which the FDA says one in five high schoolers use - remain exempt from any extra tobacco tax.

"By not taxing certain products as tobacco and by decreasing the price significantly on those products, we make them significantly more attractive to new users, and of course by new users we most often mean teenagers," Rivin said.

Lawmakers said e-cigarettes can't be included in bills like these because they, and several other 'synthetic' nicotine products, don't technically count as tobacco. They said therefore, the products shouldn't be taxed the same way.

Rivin isn't buying that explanation.

"But these products contain nicotine which comes from tobacco, they're all manufactured by the tobacco industry," she said. "We actually need to do more to ensure that we're not making these products so accessible and attractive to our children."

Now that it's through both the house and senate, the bill is waiting on the Governor's signature before it becomes law.

You can find more information on the bill and the full text here.


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