SALT LAKE CITY — E-cigarette industry spokesmen are attacking Gov. Gary Herbert’s proposed $10 million tax on the vapor products.

The Utah Smoke Free Association joined with the American Vaping Association in a statement by Aaron Frazier, president of the Utah Smoke-Free Association:

"Despite Governor Herbert's public promise to not raise taxes in 2015, his proposed budget includes a brand new tobacco-style tax on tobacco-free vapor products. His logic in pushing for this tax is that it's not a new tax, but merely an adjustment of a definition. Governor Herbert's language is as transparent and flimsy as one can get in politics.

"Governor Herbert should undertake a serious review of tobacco harm reduction opportunities and consider the health of the current 230,000 long-term adult smokers and their loved ones before setting a tax policy that could have devastating impacts. Taxing ex-smokers to recoup excise tax losses is not just bad tax policy, but bad public health policy well.

"Since vapor products first came to Utah in 2009, over 60 main street businesses have opened. These businesses have brought with them jobs and tax revenue. This tax would directly harm these businesses and discourage smokers from switching. We urge the Utah Legislature to reject it."

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said:

"Utah may have the nation's lowest smoking rate, but there are still over 200,000 Utah adults who continue to consume nicotine through the most harmful means possible — the burning cigarette. Smokers who cannot or will not quit using traditional methods deserve support from the government and public health officials, not scorn. Enactment of this tax will hurt rather than help the state in its well-intentioned campaign to encourage its citizens to make smarter choices.

"In the United Kingdom, where public health officials have taken a balanced approach to harm reduction, British smokers have felt comfortable switching to vaping. This has been an enormous public health success, as quit attempts and successful quitting have both steadily risen in the country since vaping took off in early-2013."

Utah health officials have been campaigning against e-cigarettes for a host of reasons, including health risks. Among problems are that children risk poisoning from e-cigarettes juices not stored properly by users; and that the electronic cigarettes are enticing to teenagers, leading to a new source of nicotine exposure for the young. County health departments have enacted regulations on packaging and sales of e-cigarettes.

Meanwhile, the government’s annual drug use survey finds this week that electronic cigarettes have surpassed traditional smoking in popularity among teens.

Even as tobacco smoking by teens dropped to new lows, use of e-cigarettes reached levels that surprised researchers. The findings marked the survey’s first attempt to measure the use of e-cigarettes by people that young.

Nearly 9 percent of eighth-graders said they’d used an e-cigarette in the previous month, while just 4 percent reported smoking a traditional cigarette, said the report being released Tuesday by the National Institutes of Health.

Use increased with age: Some 16 percent of 10th-graders had tried an e-cigarette in the past month, and 17 percent of high school seniors. Regular smoking continued inching down, to 7 percent of 10th-graders and 14 percent of 12th-graders.

“I worry that the tremendous progress that we’ve made over the last almost two decades in smoking could be reversed on us by the introduction of e-cigarettes,” said University of Michigan professor Lloyd Johnston, who leads the annual Monitoring the Future survey of more than 41,000 students.

E-cigarettes often are described as a less dangerous alternative for regular smokers who can’t or don’t want to kick the habit. The battery-powered devices produce vapor infused with potentially addictive nicotine but without the same chemicals and tar of tobacco cigarettes.

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