Lawmakers eyeing e-cigarette taxation in light of looming budget deficit

October 22, 2014

CaptureArizona Capitol Times: By: Hank Stephenson, October 20, 2014, 7:12am
The devastating recent state budget projections have some lawmakers eyeing additional taxes on e-cigarettes as a new source of revenue that could help bridge the $1 billion projected deficit by nextyear.
As the popularity of electronic cigarettes has skyrocketed in recent years, the issues of regulation and
taxation have become points of contention at state capitals across the nation, with dozens of states considering legislation related to e-cigarettes last year alone.

Electronic cigarettes use battery electricity to heat coils that heat liquid nicotine, which users inhale as a vapor. They
come in two basic styles: disposable or cartridge-based tubes that resemble cigarettes in appearance and are sold
at convenience stores, and larger, higher-end inhaler devices that users refill with liquid nicotine are sold at “vape
shops.”

Click Here to read the rest of the story on Arizona Capitol Times.  A subscription is required.


Arizona Daily Sun: NAU may go tobacco-free

October 10, 2014
October 09, 2014 7:00 am  • 

Northern Arizona University could become a tobacco-free campus.

Members of NAU’s Student Health Advocacy Committee have been meeting with faculty and staff this week to garner support for a policy that would make the Mountain Campus kick the habit.

The committee has been working on a tobacco-free campus policy since 2011, when it sent out a survey asking students what they felt were the biggest health concerns on campus. Currently, smoking is prohibited only in university buildings and university-owned vehicles.

“Tobacco use, cigarette litter and second-hand smoke were all things that they identified as problems,” said SHAC President and NAU senior Kelsey Pruett. “As the Student Health Advocacy Committee, we said, ‘If it’s a problem for the students, it’s a problem for us.’”

What followed were three years of research on the kinds of tobacco-free campus policies that had proved most effective at other institutions.

SHAC members discovered that NAU was the only one of Arizona’s three major public universities without a tobacco-free campus. Other in-state schools, like the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus and Maricopa Community Colleges, also had tobacco-free policies.

There are now more than 1,400 campuses in the United States that are either smoke-free or completely tobacco-free.

“We found that, actually, this is kind of a nationwide movement that’s been happening pretty recently,” said SHAC advisor Melissa Griffen.

Under the proposed NAU policy, the use of tobacco products would not be allowed in any university facilities, vehicles, residence halls or outdoor spaces. Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, hookah, e-hookah, chew, snuff, cigars, pipes would be among the prohibited items.

Rather than punishing tobacco users, the policy drafted by SHAC would call for students, faculty and staff to approach anyone seen using tobacco, educate them about the tobacco-free policy and offer cessation resources.

The SHAC students timed how long it would take to walk off campus from any of the smoking hot spots on campus. Even going at a leisurely pace, it took them no more than five minutes.

“Our main goal with this is really just changing the social norms on campus to include healthy lifestyle choices while being on campus,” Pruett said. “If you aren’t seeing people using tobacco on campus, you’re less likely to use it.”

The policy does include a caveat that would allow chronic violators of the tobacco-free policy to face disciplinary action starting in the 2015-2016 school year.

NAU’s Health Promotions Office has conducted at least three surveys gauging attitudes about tobacco use among students. The most recent study found that less than 12 percent of students reported using tobacco products in the past month.

“We have a fairly low rate of tobacco users,” Griffen said.

In each survey, more than 50 percent of respondents said they would support a tobacco-free campus. Several respondents described walking through another person’s smoke at the entrance to a building as an “annoyance,” while others complained about litter from cigarette butts.

SHAC secretary and NAU senior Dani Goettl said in addition to the well-known health risks associated with tobacco use and second-hand smoke, litter and smoke from tobacco products pose an environmental risk to the campus, which is supposed to become carbon-neutral by 2020, according to the university’s Climate Action Plan.

“NAU is beautiful and green and clean,” Goettl said. “We want to keep our campus that way and be known for that.”

SHAC recently brought the tobacco-free policy to President Rita Cheng, whose last job was at a smoke-free campus.

“She was very well-educated on the smoke-free and tobacco-free campuses,” Pruett said.

Cheng said she wanted to get a formal vote or “resolution” from the faculty senate and classified staff. She also wanted an opinion from the Native American cultural center.

In addition, Cheng wanted to see a survey asking every student at NAU whether they wanted a tobacco-free campus.

The Health Promotions Office sent the survey to all student email accounts. It will remain open until Oct. 17. By the end of last week, 2,235 students had taken the survey. Of those students, 55 percent said they wanted NAU to be a tobacco-free campus.

SHAC also collected more than 2,800 student signatures in favor of the tobacco-free policy last semester. Signatures can still be added to the petition in the Health Promotion Office on the NAU campus.

”The (University of Arizona) and (Arizona State University) are much larger in population and campus layout than NAU,” Pruett said. “If it’s successful on that big a campus with that many students, it absolutely can be successful here.”

A proposed draft of the tobacco-free policy, a list of smoke-free and tobacco-free colleges and a list of smoking cessation resources can all be found on the tobacco section of the NAU Health Promotion website at nau.edu/tobacco.

Reporter Michelle McManimon can be reached at mmcmanimon@azdailysun.com or 556-2261.

Tobacco Program Manager Position Open in Coconino County

October 10, 2014

Click Here for more information or to apply.


Kingman Daily Miner: Mohave County includes e-cigs in county’s smoking ban

October 10, 2014
E-cigarettes added to what’s not allowed
An electronic cigarette. (Courtesy)
An electronic cigarette. (Courtesy)

Hubble Ray Smith
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN – You’ll have to snuff your e-cigarette before entering a public building after a change in Mohave County’s no-smoking policy.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Monday to clarify county policy regarding “smoke free” facilities and change the wording to include e-cigarettes, which emit a water vapor instead of smoke.

Supervisor Steven Moss said he was having a “philosophical quandary” over banning e-cigarettes because there’s no evidence of health and safety issues affecting the public. He cast the lone dissenting vote.

Moss corrected board chairwoman Hildy Angius when she said some e-cigarettes contain hemp or tobacco and have an odor that almost made her throw up when it was blown in her face. He said e-cigarettes contain a nicotine substitute, not tobacco.

“So it’s not smoke that we’re banning. We’re then banning an odor. Then we should ban perfumes and colognes and those who don’t bathe,” Moss said.

Supervisor Buster Johnson wanted to know if the policy change applies to an entire county “campus” or just the buildings.

“I like rules that apply to all places, not just one place,” he said.

For example, some Mohave County Sheriff’s Department employees can’t leave the campus during their shifts, so they have a designated smoking area outside.

“It was my intent to include all types of smoking, but not change where the restrictions apply,” said County Administrator Michael Hendrix during the discussion.

Moss cited the county ordinance that specifically bans the use of “tobacco products” such as smokeless tobacco, or “chewing tobacco,” and said even if it was changed to “nicotine products,” he would still oppose the policy.

From a legislative standpoint, e-cigarettes are not widely banned from public places, but more businesses are enacting stricter policies. Despite negative public perception, more studies are suggesting that e-cigarettes may be useful tools for curbing smoking, thereby improving public health and safety.

In other action, the Board of Supervisors:

• Approved a transfer of $27,500 from the general fund contingency to cover general election overtime and temporary employees.

Mohave County Recorder Carol Meier said the funds were included in previous election year budgets, but were inadvertently left out this year due to an oversight on her part.

• Authorized an amended application for 2014 state Community Development Block Grant funds.

• Approved a standard employee housing agreement for Mohave County employees assigned to no-cost housing at Camp Davis and Hualapai Mountain Park for emergency response services.

• Approved abandonment of part of Katherine Drive 30 feet wide by 70 feet long, reserving existing utility infrastructure of a 20-foot wide easement, at Katherine Landing at Lake Mohave.


Kingman Daily Miner: E-cig policy part of update to Mohave County smoking rules

October 3, 2014
Supervisors to look at ‘smoke-free’ facilities
Courtesy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hubble Ray Smith, Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN – Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson said he doesn’t care what people are smoking – as long as it’s not in a county building.

That includes electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, which emit a vapor, not smoke.

Johnson said someone was smoking a pipe in a Lake Havasu City courtroom and county employees have complained about people coming in with e-cigarettes and blowing smoke in their faces.

Mohave County’s no-smoking policy prohibits the smoking of tobacco products within 20 feet of public buildings, but leaves a loophole for chewing tobacco, nicotine gum and e-cigarettes.

“They can say they’re smoking apple peels or peaches. I don’t care what they’re smoking, as long it’s not affecting our people,” Johnson said at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The board voted 3-1 to come up with an all-inclusive policy regarding “smoke-free” facilities, with Supervisor Steven Moss opposed to the motion. Chairwoman Hildy Angius was absent.

Moss said he sees e-cigarettes much like nicotine gum – as a way to beat addiction.

“I will confess some ambivalence to e-cigarettes,” he said. “I’m not necessarily in favor of prohibiting e-cigarettes. However, there has to be decorum.”

County administrator Michael Hendrix asked the board to come up with an “all-inclusive” smoke-free policy, with a goal of placing all new procedures in one personnel policy document.

Water attorney

In other action, the board unanimously approved a motion to hire legal counsel to represent Mohave County regarding water issues in the Hualapai Valley and other areas of the county for not more than $10,000.

Johnson pulled the item from the consent agenda for discussion because he had not received backup information.

Hendrix explained that the county was unable to retain counsel as directed by the board on July 24. Nick Hont of Development Services contacted additional law firms and was successful in contracting with one firm, but didn’t gather information for backup in time for the meeting.

Motorized vehicle ban

Another consent item pulled for discussion was the placement of signs prohibiting motorized vehicles in several washes in the Meadview area.

Public Works Director Steve Latoski said the frequency of off-road and all-terrain vehicles using washes near residential streets has “risen to the level of public nuisance.” One step to mitigating that nuisance is the placement of “No Motorized Vehicles” signs.

“I own land out there,” Johnson said. “Are you telling me I can’t run through my wash? Thanks for putting the sign up.”

Supervisor Jean Bishop, whose district includes Meadview, said the particular area in question has a new “fitness trail” with exercise spots and benches. The problem, she said, is motorized vehicles “racing up and down the banks and destroying the beauty of the fitness park.”

The motion carried 4-0.

Water export tax

The board voted 4-0 to approve a motion by Supervisor Moss to establish an ordinance imposing an excise tax on the export of water from Mohave County. Moss said the issue was brought to his attention during a meeting in Phoenix as a potential method for “readjusting the scales.”

“It has nothing to do with people using water in Mohave County,” he said. “It has everything to do with people drilling for water to take out of Mohave County.”

Moss said he’s hoping Arizona’s political delegates in Washington will make sure that the “wheels of justice turn in such a way to give us a seat at the table.”

Click Here to read the article at the Kingman Daily Miner

Read the rest of this entry »


Boulder, CO to eye smoking ban throughout downtown

September 30, 2014
The Associated PressUpdated: September 24, 2014 

BOULDER — Boulder will consider extending a smoking ban to cover its entire downtown business district, including alleys behind businesses where smokers frequently take breaks.

An ordinance to be introduced this fall would also ban smoking in city parks, on multi-use paths and anywhere within 25 feet of public bus stops and libraries. It would also cover city-owned open space, including leased agricultural lands and any associated houses, and anywhere in Chautauqua.

On Tuesday, the city extended its existing smoking ban to the Boulder High School campus, The Daily Camera reported (http://bit.ly/Y6IGfY).

One end of the school property has attracted smokers driven from a lawn outside a library that bans smoking. The school has its own smoking ban that has not been enforced by the city.

Boulder’s smoking ban applies to flammable tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars, as well as e-cigarettes. Chewing tobacco is not affected.

Councilman George Karakehian, who owns a business downtown, said alleys are littered with cigarette butts that get washed into Boulder Creek.

Councilman Andrew Shoemaker said an alley ban would be hard on Boulder Theater, as smoking is an ingrained part of the entertainment industry culture.

“I’m concerned about displacement, but I’m also concerned about the economic vitality of the entertainment industry,” he said.

Councilwoman Suzanne Jones said culture couldn’t be a major consideration if the reason behind the smoking ban is health.

“If we care about health, we care about everyone’s health,” she said.

The ban would not apply to the University Hill area. Asked why, Molly Winter, who heads up the Downtown and University Hill Management Division, said University Hill is on the cusp of redevelopment and the city didn’t want to do anything that could be perceived as hurting business.

Karakehian noted initial concerns that the restaurant smoking ban would kill Boulder’s restaurant industry but said instead it has thrived.

If approved, the smoking ban extension would go into effect in March.

The ordinance would cap penalties at fines of no more than $1,000 and jail sentences of no more than 90 days for repeat offenders. A typical smoking ticket costs $100.

To see the origional article Click Here


Arizona smokers getting tax bills for online sales

September 30, 2014
About 30,000 Arizona smokers who bought cigarettes online are being hit with bills for thousands of dollars in unpaid state taxes.

The Arizona Department of Revenue says smokers owe the state more than $20 for each carton they purchased after 2006 through online companies that offered discounts by sidestepping state use and luxury taxes.

Smokers who thought they had saved more half off the retail price of cigarettes are receiving letters from the state demanding immediate payment for the unpaid taxes, plus penalties and interest.

Annette Borden of Chandler got a $4,299.20 payment demand last week for cigarettes she purchased online between 2007 and 2009.

“I’m kind of baffled by the fact that they are coming after me,” Borden said, adding that she knew nothing about the taxes until she received a phone call last week from the state. “You’re contacting me seven years later and saying we owe this money. We never received a notice or we would have filed taxes.”

But Borden said she is more concerned the state might not stop at cigarettes. If the Department of Revenue can come after residents for unpaid taxes on cigarettes, she asked, what’s to stop officials from demanding taxes for other online purchases?

The state’s answer: Theoretically, nothing. However, unlike with online-cigarette sales, state officials currently have no way of tracking individual online purchases for items bought on sites such as eBay, where state sales taxes are often not charged or collected.

“Nothing you buy over the Internet is tax-free,” said Sean Laux, Department of Revenue spokesman. “People were buying (cigarettes) thinking they were getting a deal, no tax was applied. That didn’t mean no taxes were due.”

In 2012, federal law made online cigarette sales illegal. Companies were forced to give customer lists and purchase data to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which distributed it to states.

Laux said the department began notifying taxpayers in 2013 they must pay a use tax of 5.6 percent to 6.6 percent on every pack of cigarettes purchased online. They also have to pay a luxury tax of 10 cents a cigarette, or $20 a carton. Notices went out with specific details about individual cigarette purchases and offered taxpayers an opportunity to avoid penalty interest charges in exchange for immediate payments.

Borden said the state offered to knock down her bill to $2,800, a savings of about $1,500.

“It is a lot of money,” she said. “That’s my property taxes for a year.”

The state is taking the position there is no statute of limitations on the unpaid cigarette taxes, and officials can pursue cases indefinitely. In many cases, laws limit the number of years a state can audit an individual income-tax return. Typically it can go back no more than four years.

Laux said the limitations are lifted if a taxpayer committed fraud or never filed taxes. In those cases, the state can go back as far as it wants.

He said unpaid cigarette taxes are akin to not filing taxes.

“This is no different to us than someone who doesn’t file income tax,’ he said.

A carton of Marlboro Reds in Phoenix today costs about $71. Customers who bought cigarettes online paid about half of the retail price.

Laux said most of the online sales occurred in Arizona from 2006 to 2011. He said bills for unpaid taxes range from hundreds of dollars to several thousand. He said he is unaware of any tax bills that top $10,000.

Borden said she purchased cigarettes online for the convenience factor, not to try to avoid paying taxes.

“It’s shocking,” she said of the state’s effort to collect back taxes. “I’m not going to lie. I bought the cigarettes.”

Borden said the tax bill won’t make her quit smoking. But she is adamant it will make her quit shopping online.

“My thought process was, ‘Oh my God, do you know how much money I spend online?’ What’s to say they won’t come back to me eight years from now?” she said. “I’ll never buy another thing online.”

Reach the reporter at robert.anglen@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertanglen.

Click here to view the article on azcental.com

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers