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Kentucky Panel Votes To Tax Vaping Products

Josh James

Vaping has come under fire from health advocates who worry it's reversing downward smoking trends among young people. Some Kentucky lawmakers see new taxes on the products as a way to drive down teen usage and raise revenue.

Republican Rep. Jerry Miller's bill would impose excise taxes on vaping products and boost taxes on tobacco items with the exception of cigarettes. But he told a panel of lawmakers the proposal is aimed primarily at one type of customer.

"I want vaping to continue to be able to be used as a way to get off cigarette smoking but at the same time get at the real heart of the health crisis, which is youth use," the lawmaker said.

Sellers caution, however, that new taxes will shut down Mom and Pop stores and drive customers online. Troy LeBlanc owns Derb E Cigs, a vaping product supplier. He says the business is developing an unearned reputation.

"We're looked at as these evil people that are trying to addict a new generation. Meanwhile in Europe my largest customer is the United Kingdom hospital system because they're prescribing it," LeBlanc tells WUKY. "You buy a pack of cigarettes in Europe and it says on the cigarettes (that) e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer. Consider switching."

But health advocates warn the products are delivering high levels of nicotine to users as young as 11 and 12. And Miller's bill, if passed as is, would bring in an estimated $50 million over the next two years.

The measure easily cleared committee and now moves to the full House. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.