State Budget Solutions
By: J. Scott Moody
LD.1108, “An Act to Protect Children and the Public from Electronic Cigarette Vapor” is arguably well-intentioned, but misguided. Numerous scientific studies show that electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) not only reduce the harm from smoking, but can also be part of the successful path to smoking cessation.
The term “e-cig” is misleading because there is no tobacco in an e-cig, unlike a traditional, combustible cigarette. And unlike traditional nicotine replacement therapy, such as gum or patches, e-cigs mimic the physical routine of smoking a cigarette. As such, e-cigs fulfill both the chemical need for nicotine and physical stimuli of smoking.
Based on the findings of a rigorous and comprehensive study on the impact of cigarette smoking on Medicaid spending, the potential savings of e-cig adoption could have been up to $46 billion nationally in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. This savings is 87% higher than all state cigarette tax collections and tobacco settlement collections ($24.4 billion) collected in that same year.
More specifically, in FY 2012, Maine collected $191 million in cigarette tax collections and tobacco settlement collections. However, the potential savings to Maine’s Medicaid system is worth up to $338 million, or 77% greater than the excise and settlement collections combined.
Unfortunately, the tantalizing benefits stemming from e-cigs may not come to fruition if artificial barriers slow their adoption among current smokers. LD.1108 would present such an artificial barrier without evidence that it would protect public health, especially since e-cigs emit no carcinogenic smoke.
To be sure, e-cigs are still a new product and should be closely monitored for long-term personal and public health effects. However, given the long-term fiscal challenges facing Maine’s Medicaid system (due to the rapid aging of the population), the prospect of large e-cigs cost savings is worth a non-interventionist approach until hard evidence proves otherwise.