Pennsylvania is one of several states that is waging a war on vaping at the government level, using taxes as a primary weapon. Vaping and e-cigarette supporters fought back by holding a rally in Harrisburg, the state’s capital, on January 23.
Pennsylvania started taxing wholesale e-liquid at 40 percent last October. This coincides with the state’s definition of liquid nicotine as a tobacco product. Though some e-liquid doesn’t even contain nicotine, and nicotine itself is not the same thing as tobacco, the “tobacco product” definition has gone a long way in Pennsylvania and other states in giving e-cigarette opponents the excuse they need to restrict vaping as severely as smoking is restricted.
For Pennsylvanians, there is some hope. Some politicians who understand the unfounded bias against vaping that the tax represents are working to eliminate or at least reduce it. Lawmakers who oppose the vaping tax have a plan to reduce it to only 5 cents per millimeter of liquid, and remove e-liquid from the state budget’s definition of tobacco products. State Senator Scott Wagner spoke at the rally, noting that the tax is meant to earn money for the state. He said that the tax was targeting a specific industry to pay up and fix Pennsylvania’s current budget deficit.
Meanwhile, some vape shops have been force to shut down due to the heavy tax. The rally was attended by many vape shop owners, some who closed their stores for the day to attend, as well as many former smokers who have successfully quit because of vaping. The fact that vaping is healthier than smoking was stressed throughout the rally. Lawmakers across the country and in Federal government have been slow to accept the mountains of evidence that show significantly less, if any, harm from vaping as compared to smoking. Instead, many anti-vaping taxes and restrictions have been backed by the slim evidence that vaping might expose people to cancer-causing chemicals or that teenagers might choose e-cigarettes and get hooked on nicotine.
The vaping industry has always voluntarily stated that vaping is intended only for adult smokers as a means of switching to a safer alternative, and not as a new hobby to try or for anyone under the age of 18. Opponents of vaping have often made unfounded statements that the vaping industry is targeting children; the same accusation that has been made against the tobacco industry for decades. It has been relatively easy for anti-smokers to lump e-cigarettes into the same category as tobacco cigarettes and convince people that a fight against one is automatically a fight against the other.
The Pennsylvania bill to reduce the vaping tax was introduced last fall, but it was never voted on. The Harrisburg rally was intended to show state officials that there is much support for the bill and action needs to be taken.