Montana high schoolers are using electronic cigarettes more than their peers across the country. The state health department highlighted e-cigarette risks today as the Bullock administration and health care advocates push for a new tax on e-cigarettes.
Nearly 23 percent of Montana high school students use electronic cigarette type products, according to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Montana Office of Public Instruction. That’s higher than e-cigarette use among high school students nationwide, which is around 21 percent, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Greg Holzman, the state medical officer, says e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes or tobacco products.
"Is it safer? Maybe. But is it safe? Absolutely not."
Holzman spoke at a press conference Monday with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
According to the CDC, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm brain development.
Legislation currently in the works in Montana proposes new regulations on flavored tobacco and vape products, aiming to reduce use among kids.
Another bill expected in the coming weeks would, for the first time, tax e-cigarettes and vape projects and increase the tax on all tobacco products.
Montana voters rejected new taxes on e-cigarettes and tobacco products in a ballot initiative last year to fund the continuation of Montana’s Medicaid expansion program. The company that makes Marlboro cigarettes spent a record $17 million-plus fighting the initiative.
The Republican majority in the House and Senate has said the party will resist the tax increase proposed by Gov. Steve Bullock.
Bullock and supporters say the tax will curb use of tobacco products and generate more revenue for the state.