West Virginia became the fifth state to tax vapor products on Monday. The House of Delegates approved a state Senate bill that includes a 7.5 cents per milliliter e-liquid tax as part of a tobacco excise tax bill. The bill (SB 1012) also includes an increase on cigarette taxes.
In addition to raising the cost of selling e-liquid in West Virginia, the law creates an approval process for companies outside the state to sell to its residents, or to vape shops or distributors. “No wholesaler or other person may purchase e-cigarette liquids from any seller not approved by the Tax Commission,” the law states. This requirement goes into effect on July 1.
According to a story on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s website, the house rejected an amendment from Del. Larry Faircloth that would have removed the e-liquid tax from the bill. The bill now goes to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to be formally signed into law.
Is Vaping a Sin?
Excise taxes are often called sin taxes, because they are supposedly designed to provide a disincentive for citizens to engage in some risky behavior like smoking or drinking alcohol. But imposing sin taxes on e-cigs and vapor products does exactly the opposite, protecting the more dangerous products by punishing those who choose safer alternatives.
The move to tax vapor products has been opposed by West Virginia vape shops and the state chapter of SFATA for months. They got some early help from Americans for Tax Reform in the form of a letter to the legislators from ATR president Grover Norquist opposing taxes on vaping.
“Taking aim at e-cigarettes with higher taxes works against efforts to reduce the harm associated with smoking,” Norquist wrote. “A number of studies have shown that electronic cigarettes can improve health and prevent disease. By choosing to “vape” e-cigarettes, consumers get their nicotine fix without the combustion and smoke, which are responsible for many of the negative health effects of tobacco cigarettes. A Public Health England study found that e-cigarettes are 95-99% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. The legislature should reject raising taxes on healthier, life-saving products.”
In a statement today, ATR’s Paul Blair said, “Instead of reining in spending, the legislature has imposed a senseless cash grab on consumers of smoking cessation products while increasing the state’s dependence on a volatile revenue source.”
West Virginia joins four other states and several municipalities that tax e-liquid. The others are Minnesota, North Carolina, Kansas and Louisiana. Several other states have proposals currently pending to tax vapor products, and many other taxes have been defeated. ATR has created a handy map showing where anti-vaping legislation stands in each state in 2016.