DC Vape Shops Struggle to Stay in Business After Tax Hikes
When Erik Miller signed on as co-owner of Vape Joint, he was excited to start the first vape shop in Washington DC. In the early days, life was good for Miller and his employees. Vaping was becoming a popular hobby in the area and smokers were flocking to the store in droves to stock up on their favorite eliquids. But now that has all changed thanks to a new 67 percent tax on vaping devices.
After the new tax took effect on October 1, DC vape shops quickly felt the impact as customers started dwindling. Miller recently listed his iconic “Vape” sign on Craigslist, a first step in shutting down the city’s oldest vape shop. “We ran the numbers and it just didn’t make sense to stay open,” he said. “We would have had to invest in other products. It’s not like we were making a ton of money. We didn’t want to risk it.”
The tax on vapor products was designed to boost local tax revenue by classifying vaping as tobacco use. One committee report estimated the tax increase would lead to an extra $380,000 in revenue. However, officials either didn’t consider or simply didn’t care that the tax would force many of the city’s small businesses to close their doors.
Another DC vape shop owner, Sean Robinson, said it was ironic that lawmakers consider vaping the same as using tobacco. “My whole goal in opening the store is to get people to stop smoking,” Robinson explained. “The 67 percent tax is really debilitating for business. We’re basically just trying to survive. I believe that people of lower socio-economic backgrounds deserve the same opportunity to quit. That’s why I opened my store where I did.”
Thanks to the new tax, Robinson is switching his focus to starting another vape shop in District Heights, Maryland. “It’s definitely designed to absorb the loss from the tax,” he said. Robinson also revealed that the DC shop is now selling pipes and glassware, which aren’t included in the 67 percent tax increase.
It’s sad to see vape shops closing their doors or moving out of the area, but that’s to be expected when local officials institute outrageous tax hikes. Did Washington DC make a mistake with their recent tax changes? Will this only lead many vapers to switch back to cigarettes?