Last week we covered the story of a rally at the PA State House in Harrisburg where the vaping community showed up en masse to demand changes to the proposed 40% tax on electronic cigarette products in the state of Pennsylvania. In response to the vaping community protest of the PA ecig tax, Bill HB 2342, sponsored by Jeff Wheeland, suddenly had many co-sponors and was overwhelmingly supported by state lawmakers involved on the committee. HB 2342 may eventually save vaping in PA but as of today, Pennsylvania businesses are being hit hard.
HB 2342 may be making its way through the legislature but as of October 1, the 40% vape tax is in effect and the casualties are coming fast. This past weekend, there were many PA vape shops blowing out all inventory because they are closing up shop for good. Jobs will be gone and cigarettes remain plentiful. Owner of Fat Cat Vapors, Chris Hughes, was forced to close his store but he retained the space to operate an activist effort to challenge anti-vaping lawmakers.
Adult smokers in Pennsylvania may have a more difficult time accessing the best electronic cigarettes and vape products. The vape products that will be available will be the Big Tobacco ecig brands being sold behind the counters of convenience stores and gas stations. These lower quality, less satisfying vapor products will be sitting right beside the cigarettes, which remain plentiful and easy to access. Is this really the end goal of the PA ecig tax? Is this a big favor to Big Tobacco? Draw your own conclusions.
By the way, standard sales tax already applies to vapor purchases in Pennsylvania. It is not like vape shops and paying customers are avoiding a tax. This is not about ducking out on contributing, this is about fairness. This is also about public health and the devastating risk of driving vapers back to deadly tobacco products. If this happens, the cost to tax payers will be monumental not to mention the human cost, which never seems to garner much consideration from lawmakers these days.
HB 2342 reaches its next milestone October 18 when it will come to a vote in the PA State House. If it is successful, it could roll back the 40% tax and replace it with a 5 cent per ml of ejuice tax. This could be a tremendous relief to the vape shops that are still in business in Pennsylvania. The question now becomes, how long can these shops hold out waiting for relief?