A new storm is brewing in the vaping industry, and this time, it’s in the Northeast. Following the lead of California’s proposed anti-vaping legislation, Bill SBX2-5, Vermont's 92% vaping tax recently passed by the State Assembly would nearly double the cost of e-cigs, vape pens, and e-juices for area consumers. If the bill passes the State Senate and is signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin, then Vermont would surpass even California as the state with the second-highest vaping taxes in the country. Only Minnesota is higher with a 95% tax.
Vermont is only the latest state to attempt to follow the lead of California by categorizing e-cigs and vaping products as tobacco. Just last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted vapers with a $23.30 per bottle e-liquid tax, and Illinois Bill 3011 is currently on the floor, which would raise the legal smoking age to 21. When pressed about the 92% vaping tax, Vermont politicians are citing statistics that seem to show an increase in vaping among teenagers. According to some reports, as much as 30% of Vermont teens have tried vaping.
Vermont's 92% vaping tax: Who is it targeting?
Vermont legislators fear that the lower cost of e-cigs and vaping devices is what’s driving this surge in popularity. By raising the taxes, the average retail cost for either tobacco cigarettes or the electronic variety would essentially be about the same.
However, some political insiders are also fearful that instituting the 92% vaping tax might backfire. Rather than discouraging teens from vaping, the equally priced options might encourage them to smoke. And last year’s UK research findings showing that vaping is 95% safer and healthier than smoking tobacco cigarettes still carries a lot of weight here in the United States.
State Rep. Matthew Triber (D) stated, “(Ecigs) aren’t healthy products, they aren’t good for you. But they aren’t tobacco…In some ways we’re treating these worse than we’re treating tobacco products.”
Furthermore, e-liquids do not contain nicotine of any kind, which is only one of several thousand toxic components of tobacco cigarettes. Meanwhile, the main ingredients of e-juices, which are propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and flavorings, can also be found in lots of other foods, including that teenage favorite, ice cream. While legislators like Triber agree that the vaping industry should be taxed and regulated to some degree, the rates should be significantly lower than those for the tobacco industry.
Vermont's 92% vaping tax: What’s next?
However, there is a loophole. The State Assembly passed the bill for the proposed 92% vaping tax after Vermont’s cross-over date. As a result, voting by the Senate is not automatic. It will only be sent to the floor for a vote if the Rules Committee specifically selects it from among hundreds of other pieces of legislation on a variety of non-vaping-related issues. In theory, the bill could ultimately get lost in the pile.
Vermont vape shop owners already predict that the tax increase would essentially run them out of business. If the bill becomes law, then a $20 bottle of e-liquid soars to $40. So, the question now becomes, who is Vermont really targeting with this 92% vaping tax – teenagers or the vaping industry?
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