Massive Tax Threatens To Wipe Out Vaping Industry In Washington

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Lawmakers are proposing to smother the vaping industry in Washington state by placing a massive tax on electronic cigarettes that advocates say will bankrupt shops.

Members of the Washington State House of Representatives are pushing a bill that would put a 60 percent tax on all vapor products purchased both in stores and online. The measure includes a “floor tax,” meaning as soon as the law takes effect shops will have to pay the full tax of all their products stocked in the store at the time, reports Vaping Post.

Consumers who purchase their vapes and e-liquid from online vendors will be forced to eat the 60 percent tax themselves. Vaping advocates fear this tax will crush small businesses, forcing shops who cannot afford the added financial burden into bankruptcy. Furthermore, the tax is tied to a proposal to hike the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21.

“This bill also shockingly contains an admission that this tax is all about the money,” officials with CASAA, a consumer advocacy group, said in a statement. “HB 2165 is a prerequisite for passing Tobacco 21 legislation (another half-baked policy movement) because Washington will need to make up the lost tax revenue from cigarette sales if the minimum age to purchase is raised to 21. A similar tax of 40 percent has wiped out over 100 retailers in Pennsylvania. Imagine what a 60 percent tax will do to Washington.”

The looming 60 percent tax is likely to devastate the state’s vaping industry and make the products much more expensive for users, many of which are former smokers who rely on the devices for their daily nicotine fix.

In Pennsylvania, where a 40 percent tax on vapor products went into effect in October 2016, at least 120 stores have been forced to close their doors.

Smokers looking to quit in Pennsylvania are increasingly having difficulty finding easy access to vapor products. Instead of encouraging smokers to make a health-conscious choice, officials in Pennsylvania are forcing residents to fall back on traditional tobacco products to satiate their addiction.

“One thing I hear a lot is people saying ‘I couldn’t get nothing [vape juice] out there, so I ended up buying cigarettes,'” Shane King, a manager at Love Vape in Philadelphia, told The Philadelphia Citizen in October. “They couldn’t find coils for their devices, that kind of thing. It happens a lot.”

Vapers fear a similar effect on public health in Washington if the measure ultimately passes.

Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes, namely that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of American smokers quit combustible tobacco. Roughly 2.62 million former smokers were using a vape in 2016.

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