ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska officials say e-cigarettes may be responsible for last year’s larger-than-normal drop in tobacco revenue.
Tobacco consumption in the state has dipped to its lowest point since the latest available records in 2001 and there is an increase in e-cigarette use, but state officials say it isn’t clear whether the product is diverting sales from traditional cigarettes, Alaska Dispatch News reported (https://bit.ly/1IAYThU).
State officials say a lack of tax data makes e-cigarette use hard to track.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn flavored liquids into a vapor inhaled by the user. The vapor contains nicotine and the liquid may or may not contain tobacco. Because it’s not clear which products use tobacco, e-cigarettes are not taxable under current law.
The federal Food and Drug administration does not require e-liquid makers to disclose their ingredients.
“There’s just such variation,” said Alison Kulas, tobacco program manager for the state health department. “Without that oversight, you’re not entirely sure what you could be buying from somebody.”
Although vape shops are listed under the “tobacco” section of the Yellow Pages, many vendors insist their products are tobacco-free.
E-liquid company Moose Knuckle sells vapor flavors like strawberry cheesecake and crispy crack doughnuts. Co-owner Kevin Collins says he only uses nicotine derived from eggplant.
“We buy from a U.S. company that processes the eggplants,” said Collins. “And we use the highest-quality ingredients — propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and liquid flavorants.”
Collins sells e-liquids at Sumo Vapor in Anchorage. He says the two-year-old store and his e-liquid company, which he started in 2014, have seen “huge growth.”
“As far as general foot traffic in the store, I’ve seen it triple in the last year,” Collins said.
Both Collins and sales associate Kim Hopper say e-cigarettes helped them quit smoking. Behind the counter at Sumo Vapor, there’s a pile of cigarette that they say are the last-ever packs smoked by customers.
There are no long-term studies on the health effects of e-cigarettes because they are a relatively new product. Medical institutions like the Mayo Clinic caution against using them.
Cigarette sales in Alaska dropped from 53 million packs sold in 1996 to 28 million packs in fiscal year 2014, even though the total population increased during that period.
But a 2015 report from the state Department of Health and Social Services says tobacco remains among the state’s top killers. It regularly takes more lives than suicide, motor vehicle crashes, alcohol abuse, homicide, HIV/AIDS and influenza combined.
Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com
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