The Washington State Legislature introduced House Bill 1873 to the public on February 26, 2019.
For those who own vape shops in Washington, this is a big deal. State representatives Gerry Pollet, a Seattle Democrat, and Paul Harris, a Vancouver Republican are the politicians behind this bill. HB 1873 originally proposed a thirty seven percent tax rate of vape products.
However, in April it was decreased to sixty percent tax on the sales price of any tobacco product in the state of Washington. Most recently, the bill switched from a percentage tax to a tax on the amount of milliliters a device can hold.
Pods that hold less than 5 ml are subject to a $0.27 tax per milliliter. Any bottle larger than 5 ml is $0.09 per milliliter. Additionally, for stores that have stocked up e-juice they have to pay the price as well. The floor tax says that store owners have to pay $0.09 per milliliter on every finished bottle they have sitting on a shelf, as manufacturers, stores and distributors. The bill ultimately has about 11 tax hikes which total $27 Billion! From that tax money, 75% of the revenue must be used for public health services, tobacco and nicotine control, and prevention of sales to minors.
That is the bill in a nutshell, so what are the repercussions should this bill pass? First and foremost, vape shop owners are in a frenzy over the impending tax rates. This tax rate on their products could result in many having to close up shop. Owning a small business is no small endeavor.
Small businesses are vital, especially in rural or remote towns, of which Washington has plenty.
The secondary wave of consequences hits adults in Washington who are using electronic cigarettes to stop smoking traditional cigs. Although the taxed money will go to public health services, what exactly does that mean for the everyday Washingtonian who wants to quit cigarettes? When the government becomes the middleman, who really reaps the benefits?
If the tax rate goes up and local shops close, what plan of action does the state government have to actually aid in the cessation of all tobacco products. HB 1873 outlines how the average small business owner and vaper will have to pay more per purchase.
However, there is no plan of action outlining just how the funds will be allocated.
Will they help out the local store that ends up closed? Will the taxes from the customers pocket eventually help the customers who used to visit the shop? These are answers we do not have, which is concerning.
This is a situation where the state government is attempting to squeeze money from the pockets of people who just want to quit traditional cigarettes. Then they will take that money and implement it into vague public health plans, education and anti-minor efforts.
Many e-liquid brands and vape shops already put forth effort educating and supporting the Tobacco Control Act with campaigns such as #NO2MINORS. Retailers are doing their part. Vape shops in general are not to blame for underage use of tobacco products. Small businesses value their adult client base, so they check IDs and follow protocol.
The reasons for this tax hike seem cloudy. If public health is the main concern, why increase the tax on a product that is proven to be safer than cigarettes?
These are the things Washington residents should be asking themselves. This is the time to take action!