Neal Opening Statement at Markup of Tax and Health Legislation
Oct 23, 2019
(As prepared for delivery)
Good afternoon and welcome. Today, the committee will continue its work to improve health care for all Americans.
Recent news reports paint a grim picture of a growing epidemic of increased vaping among youth and young adults. This epidemic grows while young people are lured to products by clever advertising and free samples at events.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 3.6 million U.S. middle and high school e-cigarette users in 2018.
The Food and Drug Administration reports that e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco products among youth since 2014. In the last two years alone, youth e-cigarette use has risen by 150 percent to nearly five million young e-cigarette users. We must address this growing epidemic.
The long-term health effects of e-cigarettes remain unknown, but we do know that the number of lung illnesses related to the products have continued to rise significantly. In Massachusetts alone, there have been 46 confirmed or likely vaping-related lung illnesses and one death. I am pleased the Commonwealth has recently taken steps to address vaping’s impact on public health.
Simply put, these products are dangerous for our communities, especially our young people. Now is the time to address the problem, rather than down the road when nicotine’s long-term negative health effects harm another generation. The bipartisan bills we will consider today seek to do just that.
First, we will consider bipartisan legislation to impose a nicotine excise tax at the rate of $27.81 per gram. This would increase e-cigarette pricing in an effort to discourage youth and young adults from purchasing items, such as Juul pods.
There are two exemptions in this legislation: the nicotine found in traditional tobacco products, which is already subject to an excise tax, and any product the FDA determines to be a nicotine replacement therapy.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that this legislation would raise $9.8 billion in revenue. This revenue provides us with the opportunity to fund other positive health-related proposals such as those we will consider today.
The other bipartisan bills we will consider today allow high deductible health plans to offer inhalers for chronic lung disease, and allow certain health saving accounts to purchase over the counter medication and feminine hygiene products. Finally, we’ll consider legislation to allow individuals to contribute to HSAs while also participating in direct primary care arrangements.
Today, we have an opportunity to protect our nation’s youth from vaping’s long-term negative health effects and expand health care options for patients. I encourage my colleagues to support these bipartisan measures.