Thursday, February 6, 2014

Call to Action! Wisconsin AB 481 taxes e-cigarettes and other smoke-free products as high as cigarettes

Link to: Wisconsin Assembly Bill AB 481, aka "Backpack Tobacco Act"

[Link to Call to Action for Unrelated Wisconsin Bill CASAA supports]

Wisconsin legislators are using misleading information to gain support for increasing the tax on all tobacco products sold in the state, including e-cigarettes.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bies, insists this is not a tax increase, but, rather, an attempt to "close loopholes" by taxing all tobacco products (including e-cigarettes, which would be defined as a "tobacco product" under this bill) at the same rate as cigarettes.  (See Rep. Bies' press release.) This, of course, ignores the fact that e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products are estimated to be 99% less hazardous than smoking, so to tax them at a lower rate is not a "loophole," but good public policy.  And, despite what Rep. Bies may claim, this bill is in fact a tax increase, raising taxes on low-risk alternatives to smoking.  

(For more on the misleading claims and an analysis of the true intent of this bill, please read the op-ed post by Wisconsin resident and CASAA Vice President, Kristin Noll-Marsh, here: Wisconsin smokers are quitting. The solution? Tax non-smokers.)

If enacted, AB 481 could:

  • Redefine "tobacco product" to include, among other things, nicotine-containing liquid for e-cigarettes (and possibly some prefilled devices).  
  • Impose a tax rate on tobacco products that is the greater of 84 percent (100 percent for moist snuff/snus) of the manufacturer's list price to distributors or an amount equal to the cigarette tax imposed on a pack of 20 cigarettes. (E-cigarette products are currently taxed under the standard sales tax rate of 5.5 percent.)
  • Create a new restriction by allowing a retailer to place the cigarettes or tobacco products only in locations that are inaccessible to customers without the assistance of the retailer or the retailer's employee or agent. (CASAA does not oppose reasonable restrictions of this nature so long as the effect isn't to basically force e-cigarettes out of sight.)
  • Require consumers who bought e-cigarettes or other tobacco products from out-of-state retailers (that did not collect taxes) to file a return on or before the 15th of each month disclosing what products were purchased and pay any tobacco tax due.
  • Due to unclear language, possibly prohibit the sale of single-use, "disposable" e-cigarettes and possibly prohibit the sale of refill cartridges sold in packages containing fewer than 20 single-use units.
Remember, you can register to receive free CASAA e-mail alerts regarding this and other legislation in Wisconsin and across the United States. We will alert you when there are other opportunities to voice your concerns to the members of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Tell your story and state why you oppose this bill! Just remember--so long as you are respectful, even very short letters noting your opposition to these bills will be helpful. 

(last updated 2/8/2014)

1) This bill was referred to the Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations on November 1, 2013. It could be scheduled for a public hearing any day now. Be sure you are subscribed to the CASAA email list for Wisconsin to receive an alert. If you live in Wisconsin, please be ready to attend any hearings and speak out against this bill.

2) Submit testimony in opposition to AB 481 by emailing or faxing letters to the Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations and the bill's co-sponsors as soon as possible.

3) Contact your State Assembly Representative and Senator. Please ask them to oppose any measure that would limit adult access to, or affordability of, electronic cigarettes and other low-risk smoke-free tobacco products. When calling or writing, ask them to oppose AB 481 (the "Backpack Tobacco Act") for the reasons outlined above (as well as additional reasons outlined below). Phone calls and in-person meetings are very strongly encouraged. 

4) Wisconsin residents are are encouraged to contact the members of the Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations directly on an individual basis.  Phone calls and in-person meetings are very strongly encouraged.

Below are some "talking points" you may choose to use in your correspondence:
  1. Explain that you are a Wisconsin resident and an adult consumer of e-cigarettes and/or smoke-free tobacco.  (If you are responding to this Call to Action and are not a state resident, please mention any connection you have to the area, for example, you travel to Wisconsin on vacation or have friends/family in the area.)
  2. Tell your story of how these products have changed your life for the better.
  3. Explain that:  
    • Wisconsin law currently prohibits the sale of all nicotine-containing products to minors. Tell them that Wisconsin should be enforcing existing laws regarding these products, not penalizing adult consumers.
    • While this bill clearly includes e-cigarette products as "tobacco products" and subjects those products to the tobacco tax, it fails to define at all what is an e-cigarette "unit" or "single use" product. It also fails to address the various forms of e-cigarette liquid (ie. pre-filled cartridge packaged with a disposable battery; or box of refill cartridges; or bottle of refill liquid; or by ounce/milliliter).
    • The vast majority of people using these alternative tobacco products (and paying taxes on them) are the 9+ million adult tobacco users in Wisconsin, not middle and high school students. These products are being used by adults as a low-risk alternative to smoking. This bill is really about keeping and increasing tax revenue from adult tobacco consumers, not protecting youth.
    • While high cigarette taxes are justified by many as necessary to cover governmental healthcare expenditures caused by smoking and encourage smokers to quit smoking, trying to impose similar levels of tax on reduced risk products like e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco does not make sense.
      • E-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are estimated to pose approximately 1% of the risk of that from smoking. Moreover, decades of evidence confirm that smokeless tobacco poses similar minute risks. Given the low risks of these products, there is no need to impose a punitive tax on either product category.
      • The low risks of e-cigarettes is supported by research done by Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University, Dr. Thomas Eissenberg of Virginia Commonwealth, Dr Maciej L Goniewicz of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Dr. Murray Laugesen of Health New Zealand, Dr. Igor Burstyn of Drexel University, and by the fact that the 2009 FDA testing, in spite of its press statement, failed to find harmful levels of carcinogens or toxic levels of any chemical in e-cigarette vapor.
    • Imposing such taxes on e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco could have devastating effects on Wisconsin small businesses. Moreover, many Wisconsin consumers will avoid the tax by buying online, and the costs to the Wisconsin government to collect taxes from these citizens could outweigh the revenue the tax will bring the State.
    • Smokers who switch to less hazardous e-cigarettes instead of continuing to smoke do so because e-cigarettes are less expensive than cigarettes. Increasing the cost of e-cigarettes with punitive taxes would discourage many smokers from switching to e-cigarettes. It could also encourage some e-cigarette consumers to go back to cigarette smoking.
4.  Direct them to the website, as well as the CASAA Research Library, for more information about e-cigarettes, low-risk, smoke-free tobacco products and tobacco harm reduction policies.

Contact information for the Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations

Rep. Chad Weininger (R-District 4, Chair)

Phone: (608) 266-5840, (888) 534-0004
Fax: (608) 282-3604
District Fax: (608) 282-3604

Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-District 34, Vice-Chair)
Phone: (608) 266-7141, (888) 534-0034
Fax: (608) 282-3634

Rep. David Craig (R-District 83)
Phone: (608) 266-3363, (888) 534-0083
Fax: (608) 282-3683

Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-District 38)
Phone: (608) 266-8551, (888) 534-0038
Fax: (608) 282-3638

Rep. Daniel Knodl (R-District 42)
Phone: (608) 266-3796, (888) 529-0024
Fax: (608) 282-3624

Rep. Keith Ripp (R-District 42)
Phone: (608) 266-3404, (888) 534-0042
Fax: (608) 282-3642

Rep. Adam Neylon (R-District 98)
Phone: (608) 266-5120, (888) 534-0098
Fax: (608) 282-3698

Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-District 14)
Phone: (608) 266-9180, (888) 534-0014
Fax: (608) 282-3614

Rep. Rob Hutton (R-District 13)
Phone: (608) 267-9836, (888) 534-0013
Fax: (608) 282-3613

Rep. Stephen Nass (R-District 33)
Phone: (608) 266-5715, (888) 529-0033
Fax: (608) 282-3633

Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-District 20)
Phone: (608) 266-8588, (888) 534-0020
Fax: (608) 282-3620

Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-District 8)
Phone: (608) 267-7669, (888) 534-0008
Fax: (608) 282-3608

Rep. Janis Ringhand (D-District 45, co-sponsor of bill)
Phone: (608) 266-1192, (888) 534-0045
Fax: (608) 282-3645

Rep. Frederick Kessler (D-District 12)
Phone: (608) 266-5813, (888) 534-0012
Fax: (608) 282-3612

Rep. Robb Kahl (D-District 47, co-sponsor of bill)
Phone: (608) 266-8570
Fax: (608) 282-3647

Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-District 78, co-sponsor of bill)
Phone: (608) 266-7521
Fax: (608) 282-3678

Comma delimited email (bulk email):,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Contact information for bill author, co-author and co-sponsors

Rep. Gary Bies (R-District 1, author)
Phone: (608) 266-5350, (888) 482-0001
Fax: (608) 282-3601

Rep. Scott Krug (R-District 72, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-0215, (888) 529-0072
Fax: (608) 282-3672

Rep. Thomas Larson (R-District 67, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-1194, (888) 534-0067
Fax: (608) 282-3667

Rep. John Spiros (R-District 86, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-1182, (888) 534-0086
Fax: (608) 282-3686

Rep. Paul Tottl (R-District 25, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-0315, (888) 529-0025
Fax: (608) 282-3625

Rep. Alvin Ott (R-District 3, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-5831, (888) 534-0003
Fax: (608) 282-3603

Rep. David Murphy (R-District 56, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-7500, (888) 534-0056
Fax: (608) 282-3656

Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-District 71, co-author)
Phone: (608) 267-9649, (888) 534-0071
Fax: (608) 282-3671

Rep. Terese Berceau (D-District 77, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-3784
Fax: (608) 282-3677

Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber (D-District 57, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-3070, (888) 534-0057
Fax: (608) 282-3657

Rep. Janet Bewley (D-District 74, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-7690, (888) 534-0074
Fax: (608) 282-3674

Rep. Jill Billings (D-District 95, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-5780, (888) 534-0095
Fax: (608) 282-3695

Rep. Eric Genrish (D-District 90, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-0616, (888) 534-0090
Fax: (608) 282-3690

Rep. Evan Goyke (D-District 18, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-0645, (888) 534-0018
Fax: (608) 282-3618

Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-District 79, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-5340
Fax: (608) 282-3679

Rep. Debra Kolste (D-District 44, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-7503, (888) 947-0044
Fax: (608) 282-3644

Rep. Cory Mason (D-District 66, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-0634, (888) 534-0066
Fax: (608) 282-3666

Rep. Tod Ohnstad (D-District 65, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-0455, (888) 534-0065
Fax: (608) 282-3665

Rep. Jon Richards (D-District 19, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-0650, (888) 534-0019
Fax: (608) 282-3619

Daniel Riemer (D-District 7, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-1733, (888) 529-0007
Fax: (608) 282-3607

Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-District 48, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-0960
Fax: (608) 282-3648

Rep. Mandy Wright (D-District 85, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-0654, (888) 534-0085
Fax: (608) 282-3685

Senator Nikiya Harris (D-District 6, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-2500, (877) 474-2000

Senator Tim Carpenter (D-District 3, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-8535
Fax: (608) 282-3543

Senator Dave Hansen (D-District 30, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-5670
Fax: (608) 267-6791

Senator Robert Jauch (D-District 25, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-3510
Fax: (608) 282-3565

Senator John Lehman (D-District 21, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-1832

Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-District 32, co-sponsor)
Phone: (608) 266-5490

Comman deliminated list (bulk email):,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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