Will new tax “vaporize” e-cigarette industry?

Washington state currently levies an excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products that during the latest fiscal year brought in $414 million. Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers want to apply a similar tax to vaping products, also known as e-cigarettes, to pay for cancer research. However, others say the tax could “vaporize” the businesses selling those products.

Proponents of SB 5986 sponsored by Sen. John Braun (R-20) argued at a Mar. 25 public hearing of Senate Ways and Means Committee that the bill will help discourage vaping among youth and promote better health choices.

Under SB 5986, a tax would be imposed on vapor products of $.05 per millimeter of solution. It would also place a tax on heated tobacco products of $.40 per ounce. The tax is estimated to generate $37.9 million from this biennium through 2025. Half the revenue would go to the Andy Hill Cancer Research Fund, while the other half would go into a new public health services account. The state Department of Health and local health jurisdictions would determine the best “allocation and distribution of funds” from the new account.

Hill was the former chair of Senate Ways and Means Committee representing the 45th legislative district and died in 2016 from lung cancer. His widow, Molly Hill was among those testifying in support of the bill.

Yet, small business owners testifying at the hearing said it would undermine their ability to make a profit, and they feel they’re being left out of the conversation.

“We have solutions that can work,” vape shop owner Shaun D’Sylva told committee members. “You need to engage with us. We’re not invited to the table. We find out about these bills and we have to come down here to protect our business. It’s very frustrating to be fighting this battle over and over again.”

The bill’s cosponsors are Sens. Karen Keiser (D-33), Patty Kuderer (D-48), Kevin Van De Wege (D-24). An alternative proposal in the House is HB 1873 sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46), which has been referred to the Appropriations Committee. A similar tax proposal was introduced by Pollet during the 2015 legislative session via HB 2211; it managed to clear the House Finance Committee, but never got out of the Rules Committee.

Read more at https://thelens.news


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