Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that he will not run for re-election. But that didn’t stop the lame duck from picking on vapor products for old time’s sake — and maybe to squeeze a few more bucks out of vapers.
Emanuel says that he support’s Chicago alderman Edward Burke’s proposed ordinance that would ban flavored nicotine vapes, but he wants to make the bill even stronger by adding additional taxes to vapor products. Chicago vapers already pay one of the highest taxes in the country: $0.80 per bottle of e-liquid with nicotine + $0.55 per milliliter (mL) of liquid. On top of that, Cook County imposes an additional tax of $0.20 per mL.
Mayor Emanuel wants to increase that tax to $1.50 + $1.20 per mL. That plus the county tax would make a $10 bottle of e-juice cost $53.50. That’s more than the cost of four packs of cigarettes in the nation’s highest-taxed cigarette market. Very few smokers will try to switch to low-risk vapes at that price.
“We need to counter marketing to prohibit youth access, and I am committed to expand restrictions on e-cigarettes, supporting youth to make healthy choices — and protecting residents from tobacco,” Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times. The e-liquid tax brought in $772,000 last year.
The new proposal would also extend the tax to JUUL and other cigalikes and pod vapes, which were previously exempt from the per-milliliter tax. The Burke bill was written as an all-out attack on JUUL, and Mayor Emanuel’s proposals fit right in. The new tax would increase the price of a four-pack of JUUL pods from $15.99 to more than $25.
“You don’t do flavors to help people quit. You don’t do all these interesting packages to help people quit,” Emanuel said recently, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I said then and I want to repeat, the cigarette companies are liars.” Of course, the cigarette companies will cheer his taxes on JUUL and other vapor products.
As mayor, Emanuel presided over Chicago’s bizarre 2015 “Vaping Truth” campaign, in which Chicagoans were subjected to billboards and social media posts with slogans like, “Vaping: Liquid Poison” and “Vaping: It’s Still Addiction.” The campaign probably didn’t dissuade anyone from vaping, but it definitely got a lot of attention from vapers who relentlessly attacked Emanuel for his health department’s lies and his vaping tax grab.
Emanuel left his job as Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff in 2010 to run for mayor in 2011. Before that he had represented the 5th Illinois Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Emanuel announced early this month that he would not seek a third term as mayor in 2019.
“His polling numbers were sliding, and had even bottomed out in some city wards,” explained Politico. “With Chicagoans weary of the violence playing out in their neighborhoods, frustrated with a struggling school system and blaming him for a series of tax and fee hikes, Rahm Emanuel faced a long, painful reelection slog with an uncertain payoff.”
Yesterday, the trial began for a white Chicago police officer charged with murdering a black teenager in 2014. In what was probably the most explosive scandal during his time as mayor, Emanuel had withheld the police video of the shooting from the public for months, until after his re-election in 2015. The video showed Officer Jason Van Dyke empty his 16-shot clip into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald after the youth had walked away from the officer.
Talking about the flavor ban and his proposed tax increases, Emanuel told the Sun-Times, “With these new measures, we will build to support the health of the next generation.”