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Should NM Legislature Tax, Regulate E-Cigarettes?


E-cigarettes – those pen-like nicotine dispensers people inhale without the smoke – are posing challenges for governments trying to reduce the number of people who take up smoking.  Today a Legislative panel that oversees spending of a tobacco-settlement fund discussed whether to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as the traditional kind.

More often these days, governments are tackling the question of whether the vapor from smokeless e-cigarettes is as dangerous as second-hand smoke.  While there have been more than 50-thousand research studies on the effects of smoking, the US Food and Drug Administration hasn’t issued a rule about the vapored variety yet, including whether children are prohibited from imbibing. 

But committee member Kelly Fajardo, a Republican Representative from Valencia County, said she’s not comfortable with kids being able to buy e-cigarette products and the chemicals that go into them.  She said a law restricting use to adults is a must.

“We need to keep it out of the hands of those under 18 first,  that’s a priority – that’s what we need to focus on,” Fajardo stressed.

But Dr. Dona Upson, a lung specialist and UNM faculty member, told lawmakers that wagging a finger at children and saying it’s a grown-up activity, like cigarette makers do, actually makes smoking more appealing.

Until the FDA decides how to regulate e-cigarettes, experts like Dr. Upson suggest taxing the product might discourage people of all ages from buying it, just as it has for cigarettes.

A representative from the American Lung Association lauded lawmakers for helping New Mexico achieve distinction as the state with the most successful smoking cessation program among the 50 states.  The Lung Association also noted that when it comes to taxing tobacco products, New Mexico doesn't tax as much as other states.  

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