A new tobacco tax hike proposal was introduced in the New Mexico state legislature in order to curb use.

SANTE FE — According to stakeholders and members of the New Mexico state legislature, the need to increase a tobacco tax hike is certain given increased rates of youth use. At least, that is the claim from proponents for a tax hike that would increase the price of tobacco products across the board. The Sante Fe New Mexican reports the bill to increase the tobacco tax is a part of an effort to curb tobacco use in New Mexico, especially among high school students who are reportedly using electronic cigarettes at alarming rates.

“I don’t know if there’s any connection between smoking and other illicit drugs — some people say that there is — but we do need to save them from themselves, kind of like parents, while you still can,” said state Sen. Martin Hickey, D-Albuquerque, during remarks about the legislation at a committee hearing on the proposal. “Otherwise, we are condemning the kids to very poor health,” he added earlier in remarks.

Data presented by the New Mexico chapter of the American Heart Association said that in the Land of Enchantment (the state nickname), about 1 in 3 high school students have used electronic cigarettes at some point. This is up from 1 in 4 high school students in 2015. “New Mexico is ranked third highest in high school student use of e-cigarettes [behind West Virginia and North Carolina] among 44 states that took part in the survey,” said Mahesh Sita, a government relations director for the American Heart Association.

He referred to data from an annual youth risk behavior survey. The data is from the New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey. The data is sponsored and collected by the New Mexico Department of Health, the Public Education Department, and several academic institutions specializing in this sort of data collection. The survey says nearly 9 percent of high students smoke cigarettes at some point, and nearly 1 in 5 adults smoke cigarettes.

“The single most direct and reliable method of reducing consumption of tobacco products is raising taxes, making it more difficult to purchase tobacco products,” said Linda Siegle, the government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network chapter in New Mexico. Siegle said that increasing taxes on tobacco products would go a long way in addressing the problem. “Even though we have cessation programs and prevention programs, we know that the cost of a pack of cigarettes, the cost of an e-cigarette, is the way to get people to stop smoking or vaping.”

This strategy is what prompted a tax hike bill. During the legislative session, a bill that would have added a whopping $2 to the price of a pack of cigarettes was stalled in a Senate standing committee hearing. The proposed legislation would have increased the excise tax for other tobacco products, including chewing tobacco, e-liquids, and closed system electronic cigarettes and vaporizers. Currently, there are no active proposals to increase the tobacco tax across the state. However, this sort of measure is likely.

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Michael McGrady is a columnist for Vaping Post's English edition. He is a critically acclaimed journalist with awards and recognition from across the industry. He was a finalist for ECigClick's annual vape awards in 2019 and 2020, a KAC Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Fellow in 2019, among other honours. He is also the host of Vaping Weekly, the Post's podcast. All articles express his own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the Editor's view.