Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Policies designed to discourage vaping may have unintended consequences -- namely, encouraging other forms of tobacco use -- a new study has found.
In an analysis posted online Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the authors conclude that raising taxes on e-cigarettes, or vaping devices, as a disincentive to consumers may drive people to purchase more traditional cigarettes.
Several states have implemented special taxes on vaping products, in addition to outright bans, in an effort to curb their use.
"We estimate that for every one e-cigarette pod no longer purchased as a result of an e-cigarette tax, 6.2 extra packs of cigarettes are purchased instead," study co-author Michael Pesko, an economist at Georgia State University, said in a press release. "The public health impact of e-cigarette taxes in this case is likely negative."
As of January, 20 states have an e-cigarette tax, and Congress is considering enacting a federal tax on vaping products because of concerns that began to rise last summer. In October 2019, the United States House Ways and Means Committee approved an e-cigarette tax with bipartisan support that set a national e-cigarette tax proportional to the Federal cigarette tax.
The measure has yet to receive full Congressional approval, however.
Pesko and his colleagues analyzed scanner data from 35,000 retailers nationally over a seven-year period, finding that for every 10 percent increase in e-cigarette prices, e-cigarette sales drop 26 percent.
However, the same 10 percent increase in e-cigarette prices causes traditional cigarette sales to jump by 11 percent, they noted.
"Although vaping-related illnesses are a public health concern, cigarettes continue to kill nearly 480,000 Americans each year, and several reviews support the conclusion that e-cigarettes contain fewer toxicants and are safer for non-pregnant adults," said researcher Erik Nesson, an economics professor in the Miller College of Business at Ball State. "Thus, balancing e-cigarette and cigarette use will continue to be an important issue for policymakers to consider as they develop e-cigarette related tobacco control policies."