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PLB Testifies in Opposition to 95% & 60% Tax Proposals by Rep. Pollet & Rep Harris
March 21st, 2017
Washington State House Representatives Gerry Pollet and Paul Harris introduced two tax bills in the House Finance Committee levied at the vaping industry. HB-2144 & HB-2165 would tax vapor products at 95% and 60% respectively.
Rep. Paul Harris started by presenting HB-2165, which proposes a 60% tax on vapor products at the wholesale level. Rep. Harris gave his intent to tax vapor products to plug a budget gap stemming from Harris' prior bill proposal HB-1054, that would raise the legal age limit on tobacco and vapor products to 21 years of age. Rep. Cary Condotta made his doubts in the bill clear, stating "At that rate, this tax will vaporize itself". When Rep. Condotta asked for clarification on whether vape hardware would be taxed at the same rate, Rep. Harris was unable to provide clarification and claimed that "I need to fix that".
Rep. Pollet, promoting a 95% tax bill HB-2144 stated that "the e-cigarettes and vapor products, which have soared in popularity, billion-dollar industry, should have been paying the other tobacco product tax for the last several years". He then continued to try to make a 95% tax rate seem reasonable by applying his proposed tax rate to some of the lowest priced products in the vape industry, without giving figures that accurately consider the variable device, e-liquid sizes, and prices that would highlight the absurdity of such a high tax rate.
Association of Washington Businesses (AWB) Eric Lohnes also testified on behalf of the vape industry, opposing the high tax rates of both bills, saying "they would greatly harm the vape shop industry", including "vape shops are retail locations, but they're also places people can go to get personal information and educate themselves about the products they're buying, unlike the alternate online option they would have".
Pink Lung Brigade's Vice-President, Marc Jarrett, gave testimony in opposition to both bills, arguing that "there is a test case for this", and referenced the passing of a recent Pennsylvania 40% wholesale tax on vapor products which led to the subsequent closing of "110 plus and counting vape shops have closed". Kim Thompson, President of PLB, followed with testimony that demonstrated what the tax would do if imposed, citing the DIY nature of how the vape industry got started, and how high tax rates would drive the industry into a 'Black Market' with people resorting to making their own vaping e-liquid and hardware, explaining “it was all created at the kitchen table”.
Pink Lung Brigade continues to fight regressive proposals and legislation. PLB advocates for a statewide regulatory framework that promotes good business practices, enforces youth prevention, separates vapor products from tobacco, and upholds product quality standards.