House Bill 2270 would do the following if approved by voters in 2020:
- Increase cigarette tax from $1.33 per pack to $3.33 per pack;
- Impose a tax on inhalant delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes) at a rate of 65% of the wholesale price; and
- Increase the cap on cigar taxes from 50 cents to $1.00.
Taxes from this bill would apply beginning on January 1, 2021. Under the bill, revenue would be dedicated to the Oregon Health Authority for medical and healthcare-related programs such as the state’s Medical Assistance Program, mental health programs, and other programs concerning tobacco and nicotine health issues.
Voters in Montana decided a similar measure, I-185, in 2018; defeating it by a vote of 53% to 47%.
As of 2019, Washington, D.C. had the highest cigarette tax rate of $4.50 per pack and Missouri levied the lowest state-imposed cigarette tax of $0.17 per pack. Eighteen states, including Oregon, levied a tax rate ranging from $1.00 to $1.98 per pack.
E-cigarette (vapor) taxes are levied by state or local governments and vary by method. Some authorities tax a percentage of the wholesale price, while others tax per unit or milliliter of e-liquid. Eighteen states have enacted a tax on vapor products. Washington, D.C., has the highest vapor tax at 96% of the wholesale price. Oregon has not enacted a tax on e-cigarettes or vapor products.
The measure was introduced at the request of Kate Brown (D). On June 20, 2019, the state House voted 39 to 21 to pass HB 2270. The measure passed largely along party lines with most Democrats voting in favor and most Republicans voting in opposition. Democratic representative Bradley Witt voted against the bill, and two Republican representatives (Cheri Helt and Greg Smith) voted in favor of the bill. On June 30, 2019, the Senate passed the bill along party lines in a vote of 18-8 with four Republican senators absent or excused. State statutes referred to voters by the legislature are not subject to the governor’s veto and do not require the governor’s signature.
Also on Oregon’s 2020 ballot is a constitutional amendment that would allow the state and local governments to enact limits on campaign contributions and expenditures.