March 24, 2016
so new, we haven’t decided what to call them yet.
vapor products, electronic nicotine delivery systems, portable thermal
vaporizers -- introduced
in 2007, the devices are surging in popularity.
tax-mongers don’t care about names. They just want “their” money.
Foundation has issued a useful
primer on vaping and “revenue enhancement.” It’s a preview of coming fiscal
attractions, as various elements within the unlimited-government lobby push
state legislatures to enact taxes on e-cigarettes.
Drenkard starts with a basic overview. While Rod Serling-style
cigarettes are “shredded tobacco leaves wrapped in paper,” their 21st
century competitors are “more complex,” with “a battery, a cartridge
containing nicotine fluid that can also include flavorings, an atomizer
(usually a heated coil), an LED light that turns on when the device is in use
(and is sometimes designed to simulate the flame from a cigarette), and a
sensor which detects when a person is inhaling and activates the atomizer and
similarity between the types of “cigarettes” is “largely aesthetic.” As a
health risk, the likeness all but vanishes. No one with a functioning brain
questions the research linking smoking -- real
smoking, that is -- to lung ailments, strokes, and heart problems. For vapers,
the threat isn’t remotely comparable. A “major literature review study” in 2014
concluded that “some residual risk associated with [vapor] use may be present,
but this is probably trivial compared with the devastating consequences of
smoking.” Last summer, a Public Health England report determined that
“e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking.” In 2011, a paper found
that “electronic cigarettes show tremendous promise in the fight against
tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.”
news for “public health,” right? If vaping eventually replaces smoking, imagine
the lives that will be saved. Imagine the reduction in healthcare costs.
imagine all that foregone tax revenue.
was the first to act. In 2012, it imposed a tax of 95 percent on the wholesale
cost of vaping products. But the levy wasn’t the result of law. In an absurd
ruling, the state’s Department of Revenue decided that the
devices fell under the statutory definition of “tobacco products.” North
Carolina’s GOP-majority general assembly, and Republican governor, were the
first to tax vaping via legislation. In 2015, Kansas and Louisiana -- both with
GOP statehouses and chief executives -- followed suit.
Obama recovery is finally starting to gain some steam. A few weeks ago, the
White House’s Council of Economic Advisers blogged
that in the last “24 months, the private sector added 5.6 million jobs, the
most in any two-year period since 1999.” In 2015, earnings rose in 21 of the 24
industries tracked by the Bureau
of Economic Analysis. But many states are struggling with deficits.
(Thanks, Medicaid expansion.) So look for Kentucky,
Oklahoma, and Alabama
as the next vape-tax adopters.
winning legislative majorities, and gubernatorial signoffs, for the levies
could prove tricky. The popularity of vaping has drawn intense interest from
tax-grabbers, but surging sales is also creating a powerful lobby.
Norquist, moonbats’ bête noire, is
organizing a nationwide network of e-cig advocacy. The president of Americans
for Tax Reform (ATR) told The Washington
Examiner that “the next election, at the presidential level, and a lot of
other levels, is going to be determined by the vaping community.” Okay, maybe
that’s a stretch. But vapers’ dedication runs deep, and Norquist is not far off
in calling their community a “movement.”
there’s the Smoke-Free Alternatives
Trade Association (SFATA). “[C]ommitted to providing an alternative to
combustible tobacco products for adult smokers,” the organization “represents a
wide cross section of the … industry including distributors, manufacturers,
retailers and consumers of … electronic cigarettes and the liquid solutions
they contain.” SFATA estimates U.S. “vape stores” at 15,000, in addition to
1,200 “manufacturers of e-liquid,” 22 “manufacturers of hardware,” and “13
assemblers of finished products.” In all, the industry employs 70,000.
kind of economic muscle generates political juice. In February, 100 SFATA
members joined forces with ATR to meet with fedpols “in an effort to convince
them to curb the implementation of the Food and Drug Administration’s
regulatory assault and pending [regulation] on the sale and availability of electronic
cigarettes and vapor products.” Given Norquist’s contacts and partnerships with
politicians and activists at the state level, taxaholics face a
formidable foe in their crusade to target e-cigs.
Nation is 10 million strong and growing. Offend it and risk serious
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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