Alaska Legislature

Alaska Senate president makes new pitch to tax e-cigarette products and discourage youth vaping

Nearly six months after Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed a bill aimed at reducing youth use of electronic cigarettes, its primary sponsor is trying to pass similar legislation.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, on Wednesday introduced Senate Bill 89, which seeks to impose the first-ever statewide tax on e-cigarette products. The bill would also raise the legal age in state law for purchasing, selling or distributing those products to 21, aligning with federal law; currently, the legal age in Alaska is 19.

Stevens, in a statement, said the bill is needed to counter a trend in the state of rising e-cigarette use, also known as vaping.

“Alaska has an active underage sales enforcement program which has reduced sales of smoking products to minors, but more steps are required to see Alaska’s tobacco use rate decline, especially among young Alaskans,” Stevens said in the statement released Thursday.

He pointed to results from the most recent state tobacco report, which was released in December by the state Department of Health. The Alaska Tobacco Facts Update said that while youth smoking has dropped dramatically since the 1990s, youth use of e-cigarette products has increased so much that it nearly offsets the decline in smoking.

“This is about protecting our children from the addiction of nicotine and their ability to get access to these products,” Stevens said in the statement.

The Legislature passed the bill he sponsored on the same subject last year by wide margins in both chambers. It would have imposed a 35% tax on the wholesale price of e-cigarette products.


But Dunleavy objected to the tax it imposed, citing that as the reason for his veto.

Stevens’ statement said taxes are effective at reducing tobacco use, both by discouraging youths to take up the habit and helping give adults incentives to quit.

Alaska’s state tobacco tax has not changed since 2006, a time before e-cigarettes became prominent in the marketplace.

This year’s version has a different tax approach than last year’s bill: a 25% tax on the retail price of the products rather than a tax on the wholesale price.

Stevens’ bill has four co-sponsors in the Senate’s bipartisan majority coalition, including Majority Leader Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican who is an advanced practice registered nurse.

Originally published by the Alaska Beacon, an independent, nonpartisan news organization that covers Alaska state government.