Texas electronic cigarette legislation dies in committee

This session, Texas lawmakers introduced several bills aimed at creating stricter requirements on e-cigarette purchases.

 

Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.

 

Senate Bill 1332, sponsored by Senator Nathan Johnson, would hold electronic cigarettes and vaping devices to the same regulatory standards as other tobacco products. The bill would impose a 5 cent per millimeter tax on vapor products, a tax that already applies to other tobacco products. The bill would also allow the state to revoke a retail license of a business that is found to knowingly sell tobacco products to minors.

Another bill, House Bill 4013, would create a 10% retail excise tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products. The revenue generated from the tax would be earmarked for public schools and is expected to increase state revenue by $16.6 million in its first fiscal year. The legislation also directs the state to create a program for retailers to train them against selling to minors. If employees are not trained, the retail location may be fined.

Both bills are an attempt to make it more difficult for minors to obtain electronic cigarettes and vaping products. The bills were introduced in response to national data that showed that an additional 1.5 million minors use e-cigarettes in 2018 than used them in 2017.

Despite support, House Bill 4013 died Thursday night after a point of order was called in committee. A point of order is called when an elected official suggests that a rule of the chamber has been broken. In Texas there is a mandate that determines that tax legislation must originate in the House, not the Senate. Given that the legislative session is in its final weeks, the deadline does not allow for the bill to be introduced in the opposite chamber before the session ends.

During the long committee hearing, Gov. Greg Abbott sought to make changes to this piece of legislation. The governor’s changes to the bill would remove the retail tax, and instead the state would tax e-cigarette and vaping products at the wholesale value.The changes would also allow for a $1 per ounce tax on all heated nicotine products, like vape pens. His motivation for introducing these suggestions follows a meeting with Altria, one of the nation’s largest tobacco companies, as reported by the Dallas Morning News.

In response to the death of the bill, Stephen Love, President and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council stated:

“This is certainly very disappointing action related to the serious epidemic of young people using vapor products and electronic cigarettes. The nicotine is very addictive and has become a public health crisis. Senator Nathan Johnson from Dallas should be commended for caring about the health and safety of our young people as he worked conscientiously on this bill.  The CDC has statistics that clearly give evidential proof of the dramatic increase in the use of these products by middle school and high school students. We should ask ourselves an important question routinely—Are we improving the public health of our community?” Love commented via email.

Although the bill is no longer considered viable this legislative session, given the support for the legislation it is likely similar bills will be introduced in future sessions.  Senate Bill 1332 has been referred to the Finance committee for consideration.