There is some good news for vapers and vape shop owners in Kansas. A 20 cent tax on e-liquid is one step closer to being cut, thanks to the passage of a bill by the State House of Representatives. Senate Bill 96 cuts last year’s 20 cent tax down to only 5 cents per milliliter, though now the bill must o go back to the Senate for final confirmation before taking effect later this year.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously after there was much protest to the original 20 cent tax. There were also attempts by some vaping industry supporters to change the tax so that it would only tax e-liquid that contains nicotine and leave zero nicotine liquid tax-free, but that part of the restructuring of the bill failed. After passing the Senate, the House then passed the bill by a vote of 123-2. The House did amend the bill before passing it, however, so now it goes back to the Senate. If the Senate should fail to pass it, it will have to go to committee. Otherwise, the new 5 cent per millimeter tax on all e-liquid will start being collected on July 1. Refunds will be given to vape store owners who have already paid some of the 20 cent tax.
Among the few opponents to lowering the tax are the president of the Kansas Public Health Association, Robert Moser, who said in writing that since e-cigarettes are new and there has not yet been enough research to “prove their harm” we should discourage vaping by making it more expensive. But Tom Rogers, co-owner of Wichita’s Lucky’s Convenience & Tobacco, urged lawmakers to talk to real people who have successfully used e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, as well as their physicians, who Rogers says often support their smoking patients’ switch from smoking to vaping.
Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network hasn’t taken a stand on e-cigarettes in Kansas, but it does still want a higher tobacco cigarette tax. The goal is to raise the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack, which would make the total tax per pack of cigarettes $2.79. A bill to raise the tax was voted down by the House. Opponents said that it could harm low-income smokers who might go without food or other necessities in order to pay for cigarettes. Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita called the proposed tax a tax on “sick people,” referring to smokers’ addiction to nicotine.
Most states have not as of yet started taxing e-cigarettes and vaping products, but among the ones that have, some taxes are rather extraordinary, including Pennsylvania’s 40 percent wholesale tax on e-liquid and Minnesota’s extremely punitive 95 percent wholesale e-liquid tax. It is unfortunate that Kansas is still going ahead with a tax on even e-liquid that contains no nicotine; it should be noted that the presence of nicotine in e-liquid is the only reason the Food and Drug Administration has for deeming e-cigarettes as tobacco products, but the fact that Kansas legislators overwhelmingly supported a reduction on the vape tax is a good sign.