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Higher e-cigarette taxes could push vapers to smoke ‘more lethal product,’ Yale study suggests

TOPSHOT - A smoker is engulfed by vapours as he smokes an electronic vaping machine during lunch time in central London on August 9, 2017. - World stock markets and the dollar slid Wednesday after US President Donald Trump warned of "fire and fury" in retaliation to North Korea's nuclear ambitions, sending traders fleeing to safe-haven investments. In Europe, equities dived with London losing 0.6 percent, while Frankfurt shed 1.1 percent and Paris fell 1.4 percent. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images
High tax rates on e-cigarettes are seen as a driving force in young people turning to traditional cigarettes, according to a recent Yale study.

A recent study from the Yale School of Public Health suggests that higher taxes on e-cigarettes could drive younger vapers to turn to traditional cigarettes.

Connecticut has a $4.35 tax on a pack of cigarettes — among the highest nationally — and a 10% wholesale tax on e-cigarettes for an open tank.

“We would want to tax e-cigarettes lower to incentivize people using a more lethal product, cigarettes, to reduce their risk,” said Michael Pesko, a health economist at Georgia State University who co-authored the study with Yale’s Abigail Friedman. He spoke on Connecticut Public Radio’s "Where We Live."

But mental health experts caution that it’s important to understand and address the factors that lead young people to substance use.

“The amount of emotional pain that young people are experiencing right now is staggering,” said Dr. Javeed Sukhera, chief of the department of psychiatry at Hartford Hospital. “The reality of what they’re experiencing, the reality of what this nation is going through, sociopolitically as well, is really tough on young people. And so in the context of that pain, suffering and distress, to turn to substances isn’t surprising.”

Earlier this year, the Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics testified in favor of a state ban on flavored vaping products. The AAP pointed to data showing that 70% of youth e-cigarette users cited flavors as the reason for their use. (The bill failed to pass in Connecticut for the third year in a row.)

In Connecticut, 27% of high school students use e-cigarettes, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids.

But it’s not just the younger demographic embracing vaping.

”Older people are coming right now because those people have been smoking cigarettes for a very long time,” said Gihan Samaranayaka, who works at a vape shop in Hartford. “Back in the day, they didn’t have any sort of alternatives. So more people are coming for zero nicotine juices; they buy vapes.”

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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