Crowds of vape shop owners descended on the Pennsylvania state Capitol building to pressure lawmakers to act on reforming a tax that’s forcing businesses throughout the state to close.
The protest, organized by the Pennsylvania Vape Association Monday, drew tobacco harm reduction advocates, people who have successfully quit cigarettes with the device and a number of shop owners representing the financial interests of their industry. Close to one hundred vape shops have shuttered since the tax was imposed, and many more fear future closure. The group gathered in the state Capitol building and implored lawmakers to pass a bill reducing the 40 percent tax on products to a five cent per milliliter tax on nicotine fluid, reports York Dispatch.
State Sen. Camera Bartolotta and Rep. Jeff Wheeland introduced the bill towards the end of the 2016 legislative sessions, but support never materialized and lawmakers never took a vote.
“They had the opportunity last year, but they swept it under the rug,” Tony Myers, owner of About It All and About It All Vapors, told York Dispatch. “It dims my hope a bit.”
Myers’s shops are still afloat, but the tax, which took effect Oct.1, is impacting his business in other ways. He previously focused on hiring adults with special needs but has had to fire all but one due to the financial impact of the tax.
“Nothing is better than instilling these people with a purpose,” Myers told York Dispatch. “And nothing has been harder than telling those six individuals they can’t help anymore.”
Many in attendance were former smokers who successfully quit using an e-cigarette device. The protesters want to draw attention to the havoc the tax is wreaking on their industry. Business owners continue to be forced into bankruptcy and many are now collecting unemployment.
John Dietz, the vice president of the Pennsylvania Vape Association, said the group also plans to petition state lawmakers push to have e-cigarettes removed from the state’s definition of a tobacco product. Proponents of vaping argue critics are ignoring the positive impact the devices are having on current smokers.
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