Hawaii’s lawmakers are obviously more interested in making money than protecting public health. Otherwise, why would they penalize electronic cigarettes for helping people quit smoking? This week, the Hawaii state leaders unanimously voted in a new 80 percent tax on ecigs. The new bill classifies any product containing nicotine as tobacco products and sentences them to massive taxation.
Senator Rosalyn Baker said she hoped the new tax would deter people from using ecigs. “We have raised the cigarette tax several times, and people are moving from cigarettes, which now have a hefty price tag, to less expensive products that can kill them just as easily,” she said. “We’re trying to provide a disincentive for the other tobacco products.”
But why would the lawmakers want people to avoid ecigs? After all, they are tobacco free and produce no secondhand vaper. They are a far better choice than cigarettes, but if the two are priced at a similar level, then smokers have far less incentive to make the switch.
Hawaii vape shops are frustrated with the new tax and many fear this will lead them to shut the doors permanently. Hawaii-based Volcano ecigs is one of those companies that is gravely concerned. CEO Cory Smith said his stores in Hawaii now face a major disadvantage compared to shops in other states.
“This proposed tax would basically decimate the vapor industry here locally,” he explained. “I would have to move a significant size of our operations out of state.” Smith went on to explain how the tax would cause a massive price hike on all vaping products. “A tax on a 10-cent cigarette doesn’t mean a whole lot, but a tax on a $20 bottle of e-liquid is a drastic price change. Tobacco revenue is falling, so it feels like the state is going after former smokers to find new ways to suck money out of them. These two products are not the same thing.”
With 60 vape shops scattered across the state, Smith fears that they will all lose customers in the long run. “Subjecting my company to a tax just because I’m located in the state of Hawaii would put me at an extreme disadvantage because customers would just go online. Then how are you going to generate 80 percent tax revenues if no one in Hawaii can compete?” Smith said.
Do you think Hawaii’s vape shops stand a chance after the new tax is enforced?