E-cigarette

According to a new poll, a majority of Kentucky voters support an excise tax on e-cigarettes. (WDRB Photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- At the Juice Box, a vape shop near the Ford Truck Plant in Louisville, Keith Hadley said he believes the e-cigarettes sold there and elsewhere are improving the health of the people who use them.

Hadley, the co-founder of the Kentucky Smoke Free Association, believes e-cigs are weening adults off cigarettes that he said  are more harmful.

"When that customer comes back a week later and says 'I haven't had a cigarette in a week,' we get excitement from that," Hadley said. "This product is something that is helping Kentuckians, and that is our goal."

Bonnie Hackbarth has a very different opinion.

"Each one of them has about as many puffs and as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes," she said as she showed WDRB News a pack of e-cigarette refill cartridges. "Kids that are in middle school, kids that are in high school, are using these products."

Hackbarth is the vice president of external affairs of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

"We're going to continue to advocate for proven policy measure that reduce smoking and tobacco use in Kentucky, because we are the cancer capital of the nation," she said. "In Kentucky, our current tax on cigarettes is $1.10 a pack. Our current tax on e-cigarettes at an excise level? Nothing."

But as of this week, her cause has new ammo. A poll conducted by Mason-Dixon and funded by the foundation found that a large majority of Kentucky voters support an e-cig excise tax, which is a tax on a specific good or service.

Of the 625 voters polled over the phone, 77 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Independents were in favor of the tax. According to the poll, western Kentucky, northern Kentucky and Lexington were highest in their support. In Louisville, 70 percent of those polled were favorable to the tax.

"The results of this poll were surprising, because we found more support among groups that traditionally don't support an increase in tax on a product that you make a personal choice about," Hackbarth said.

She hopes the results give lawmakers in Frankfort some encouragement to tax a product she said is being marketed to young people more and more often. She believes they've become so popular with young people that it's causing them to become addicted to nicotine as they grow into adulthood.

"You can get e-cigarettes in flavors from everything from bubble gum and cotton candy to unicorn vomit," Hackbarth said. "They're ridiculous. Now, that's not marketing to an adult."

She's also not convinced that they're weening adults off traditional cigarettes. However, there's no current proposal to add an excise tax, she said.

Hadley, meanwhile, said a tax is the wrong approach.

"Taxing something doesn't eliminate bad businesses from selling to underage people," he said.

Hadley thinks a better solution is licensing vape shops and maybe not allowing e-cigs to be sold at gas stations and convenience stores.

To see the full poll, click here

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