Rhode Island Facing Potential 80% Tax For Second Year In A Row
Gov. Gina Raimondo made the same proposal last year, but luckily it was voted down
It’s nothing new for legislators to use vaping as a scapegoat when looking for more funding without raising voters taxes. We’ve seen it in states across the country, excessively high taxes on all vaping products sold there. While many of these taxes have done their intended job of creating more revenue, the sad reality is that hefty fees have lead to a massive increase in the number of vape shops forced to close their doors. So ultimately the revenue from new taxes will only decrease over time as more and more vapers opt to get their products online or out of state.
Rhode Island is just the latest state that is considering a substantial tax to generate more funds. In fact, it’s the second year in a row that Gov. Gina Raimondo has proposed an 80% tax on all vaping products sold in the state. She hopes that the new tax money will go a long way in fighting the states increasing budgetary concerns. But if it’s allowed to become law, it’s only a matter of time before the entire independent vaping industry in Rhode Island is unrecognizable.
The Potential 80% Tax
Back in March, the Rhode Island House Finance Committee was set to have a hearing about a potential 80% wholesale tax on vaping products sold in the state. That was until the meeting was postponed due to blizzard conditions. The move would change the state’s definition of “other tobacco products” to include vaporizers. It was the exact same proposal given by the Governor’s office last year. But since the postponement, not much has been reported about the potential ban. The good news is that means there’s still time to make your voice heard on the issue.
The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) is urging vapers from around the country, but specifically, those who live in Rhode Island to give their thoughts and feelings to the state legislators. Others have come out against the potential ban including Jeff Stier, Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. In an open letter to the House Finance Committee, Mr. Stier made the case against the tax:
“This attempt to create additional tax revenue does not justify the negative ramifications it will have for your constituents. An excise tax on lower-risk alternatives to combustible cigarettes would make it harder for your constituents to quit smoking. But this 80% tax proposal is particularly unwise as it would guarantee an expansion of the black market, encourage consumers to purchase e-cigarettes out of state, while harming responsible businesses in your community.”
Vaping Taxes Elsewhere
Pennsylvania was the first state to test a significant tax on vaping. Back in 2016 state legislators voted to place a 40% wholesale tax on any vaping products sold in the commonwealth. Proposed as a potential source of millions of extra revenue dollars for their hotly contested budget, the bill was quickly passed into law. While the new tax had positive returns for the state at first, over $13 million over the first year, it also directly lead to over 100 vape shops going out of business. That accounts for over a quarter of the total number of shops, meaning that future returns from the tax will only continue to diminish.
While PA provides one of the most established examples of what a vaping tax can do once made into law, many other states have floated the idea of much more burdensome taxes. Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy proposed a 75% vaping tax to help ease the state’s financial concerns. Experts don’t expect it to become law, but the state legislators are still discussing the possibilities of a slightly reduced version. Regardless of the final figures, it’s clear that even moderately sized tariffs on vaping products hurt law-abiding small business owners more than anyone.
The most significant issue with these proposed taxes is ultimately more than just simple infringement of rights or disadvantaging small business owners. The real problem is that by so quickly moving to equate vaping with smoking both in danger and regulation, legislators are sending the message that attempting a switch is not worth it. After all, why switch from something you’re already comfortable with in favor of something that’s just as dangerous?
But the truth is that vaping is not nearly as dangerous as smoking. Research has shown that the excess lifetime cancer risk of vapers is over 57,000 times lower than smokers. While no one is trying to claim that vaping is 100% harmless, it indeed represents one of the best harm reduction tools we have. So if we genuinely desire the end of the smoking epidemic, we must avoid taxes that telegraph to the public that vaping is just as bad, and therefore equally worthy of harsh taxation as cigarettes.
Do you live somewhere vaping taxes have affected your life? Do you think it legitimizes the belief that vaping and smoking as essentially the same when the same set of rules taxes them both? How can we best fight back against legislators trying to implement more taxes? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.