Vaping Vendors Fear E-Cigarette Tax Will Crush Their Businesses

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Electronic cigarettes face the prospect of a first time tax in California that could hit consumers with a 67 percent penalty on the purchase of liquid nicotine, depending on how election day goes.

The proposal is part of Proposition 56, a Nov. 8 ballot measure in California that aims to hike the tax on tobacco products from 87 cents to $2.87 and bring e-cigarettes under the umbrella. E-cigarette distributors in the state say the tax will lift the price of one standard 30 milliliter bottle of liquid nicotine from roughly $20 to $30. Critics fear the 67 percent tax rate on vaping could jeopardize small businesses throughout the state, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“For us to be taxed as an equivalent to tobacco or cigarettes doesn’t make sense,” Kari Hess, a vape shop owner and an activist for smoking alternatives, told the Los Angeles Times. “It would essentially put me out of business.”

Proponents of the ballot initiative say e-cigarettes pose a health risk and are helping to extend the “tobacco epidemic.” They also argue e-cigarettes are hooking kids on tobacco and serve as a gateway to smoking. Evidence that e-cigarette use is turning another generation of children into cigarette smokers is thin.

The United Kingdom actually promotes the sale of e-cigarettes as a health conscious alternative to smoking. Evidence suggests e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than traditional cigarettes, because the majority of cancer causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke. A study found that nearly all of the 2.6 million e-cigarette users in the U.K. are former or current smokers, many using the device to quit, according to the R Street Institute.

“They claim the tobacco tax is a way to stop people from smoking, but then they hit vaping with a huge tax,” Steve Greenhut, Western Region director for the R Street Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “If their thinking is the same, people are going to stop vaping. Vaping is one of the main ways people quite smoking, so it’s hugely counterproductive from a policy standpoint.”

The smoking rate in California is 12 percent, the second lowest rate in the country.

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