Should Oregon tax e-cigs?

Should Oregon tax e-cigs? »Play Video
Vape 'em if you get 'em

EUGENE, Ore. - Electronic cigarettes aren't prohibited in bars and restaurants like traditional cigarettes.

They aren't taxed.

And in many states, buyers aren't legally required to be 18.

Oregon lawmakers are now debating whether or not to tax e-cigarettes.

The people who buy and sell e-cigarretes would be the ones to pay it - and have opinions on the matter.

"We've had a lot of people who smoke cigarettes transfer over, and it's an easy way to almost wean your way off of nicotine because there's varying strengths," said Amanda Day at MidTown Direct. "I think it'd be a mark against our health if you were trying to tax it."

"The only reason that I did quit is because I started smoking e-cigs," said Nickolas Gayton, a former smoker.

E-cigarettes operate off heat, creating an inhalable vapor that contains nicotine.

"Early on, the indication is that they are healthier" than traditional cigarettes, said Jason Davis with Lane County Public Health. "I certainly wouldn't use the word healthy."

And just like cigarettes, health officials are concerned about the impact of an addictive substance on children.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found the number of high school kids using e-cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012.

And in Oregon and 38 other states, that's perfectly legal.

"If it's not tobacco, there's no specific laws for nicotine, so kids can actually still buy them," Davis said.

Raising the price of e-cigarettes would be one way to curb their usage, he said.

"You increase the price and kids stop doing it because kids don't have money," Davis said. "This is one way to do that, the tax."

And even though it's legal to sell e-cigs to kids, Davis hopes clerks in local stores would use their better judgment.
 
Day, the sales associate at MidTown, said they don't even allow minors into their store, so they would never consider selling to someone under 18.

"It's definitely not something we want to sell to minors," she said. "There's still nicotine in it so that's not a good idea."