Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Opinion | Update Alabama’s tax code to accommodate new smoke-free alternatives

E-cigarette taxes increase traditional cigarette use among adults, which is the opposite of what Alabamians should want.

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The free market always innovates faster than the speed of government. We see this in nearly every sector of the economy as new products emerge that defy old classifications. One area that is innovating faster than policymakers can keep up is in the tobacco industry, where new products are coming to market that offer adult smokers better alternatives.

Retailers are always working to meet the demand of consumers with new and varied choices, particularly when it comes to tobacco and nicotine products. For gas stations and convenience stores, these products can comprise up to nearly one-third of store sales, so store owners pay close attention to this category which has seen unprecedented change in just the past few years.

Today, more than 20 percent of Alabama adults continue to regularly smoke cigarettes, and many of them are looking for a less harmful alternative. To meet this growing demand, new smoke-free heated tobacco products are being introduced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed “appropriate for the protection of public health.”

While nicotine is highly addictive, it is not the substance responsible for cancer, emphysema, and other deadly diseases that stem from cigarette smoking. It is the toxic smoke being inhaled into the lungs that poses the most significant threat to smokers’ health. Now, smokers have a variety of smoke-free innovative products like heated tobacco products that are a significantly better choice.

Switching from cigarettes to these alternative products is not only beneficial for many of our customers, but also for the promotion of public health more broadly.

Our members are responsible retailers of age-restricted products; we care about our customers. Store owners and their employees follow the law which prohibits marketing or selling tobacco or nicotine products to anyone under the age of 21. As a result of these efforts, youth tobacco usage is at its lowest rate in history. Now is the time to focus on making better changes and policies for adult smokers.

New legislation in the Alabama Legislature seeks to align our state’s tax code with the marketplace, commonsense and public health. House Bill 438 would update the definitions in Alabama’s tax code to create a new category for smoke-free heated tobacco products. These changes would create a better pathway for adult smokers to access smoke-free products and ensure that these products are more affordable than cigarettes. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

We know that tax rates affect consumer behavior: independent researchers have found that adult smokers are less likely to smoke when combustible cigarette taxes are raised. But they’ve also shown that e-cigarette taxes increase traditional cigarette use among adults, which is the opposite of what Alabamians should want as a public health outcome. 

We applaud the introduction of this legislation and urge lawmakers in Alabama to update our tax code, ensuring that it properly categorizes the options that will help provide adult smokers with new smoke-free alternatives. 

More from APR


Embracing tobacco harm reduction and incorporating changes to its tax code can ensure that Alabama will be a leader.


Improving our state’s public health depends on us doing more to reduce smoking rates.


For years, Alabama held the record for the lowest tax collections per capita in the U.S.


The tax renewal secures a crucial stream of funding for the next three decades.