SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown is throwing her support behind new legislation that would raise taxes on tobacco products, including the creation of taxes for e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
According to Brown's office, money raised by the tax would be funneled toward the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), the state's Medicaid program.
"House Bill 2270 will improve health and save lives," Governor Brown told the House Revenue Committee. "Tobacco is still the No. 1 preventable cause of disease and death in Oregon. By increasing the cost of tobacco products and e-cigarettes, House Bill 2270 not only provides the funding we need to continue to provide health coverage to Oregonians, it invests in prevention and cessation to improve the health of our communities."
Taxes on cigarettes would rise by about $2 per pack under HB 2270. The bill would also, according to Brown's office, tax e-cigarettes — apparently through changes in terminology. The bill itself does not refer to e-cigarettes, but frequently mentions "inhalant delivery systems" for tobacco products.
"The U.S. Surgeon General reports that 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students use e-cigarettes," said Brown's office. To date, there has been little in the way of definitive results on the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, however, in spite of some apparent issues flagged by the FDA.
Distributors and retailers of tobacco products could also face new taxes under House Bill 2270.
The new legislation is just one part of a multi-pronged approach by Governor Brown to find "long-term sustainable funding" for OHP. Two other funding measures were signed into law last month, and the Employer Health Care Responsibility Act (House Bill 2269) — which adds a spending requirement for employers who do not contribute a minimum amount toward their employees' health care — is also under consideration by lawmakers.
If passed, Brown's office estimates that the bill would raise an additional $346 million per biennium — with 90 percent of the funds earmarked for OHP and the remaining 10 percent going toward "investments in tribes, culturally specific organizations, and state and local public health to expand cessation efforts."