New House Bill Would Tax Vapes Like Cigarettes
This year will likely be the most challenging ever for both state and federal attacks on the vaping industry and the rights of vapers. Already one member of Congress has introduced a bill that would ban e-liquid flavors.
Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro, a longtime foe of vaping, has introduced a House bill called the Youth Vaping Prevention Act. Rep. DeLauro announced the legislation Tuesday at a school in New Haven.
If passed, the bill will ban flavors that cannot be proven to not “increase youth initiation” and proven to help smokers quit cigarettes — standards that consumer products probably can’t meet. It would also add federal excise taxes to vapor products, and prohibit the U.S. Postal Service from shipping vapor products. DeLauro also introduced a bill in 2015 that would have banned postal shipping of vapes.
DeLauro believes that flavored vapor products are literally intended for children. “It’s a different issue for adults, but what we’ve looked at in the last year is escalating numbers of middle school kids and high school students who are vaping and I would bet anything that their focus group data says this is their market,” she told local TV station WTNH.
Speaking to kids at the school, DeLauro said flavors are a trick to get them hooked. “That is what we call a marketing tool,” DeLauro said, according to the New Haven Independent. “That’s what makes it fun. It says, ‘Hey, this is great. It’s cotton candy, gummi bears’ or whatever. It is directly a marketing tool to all of you.”
DeLauro’s staff gave a summary of the bill to the Independent. The legislation will include these provisions:
Age verification for online sales
“Current law requires Internet and other mail-order sellers of cigarettes, roll-your-own, and smokeless tobacco products to:
a) verify purchasers’ age and identity before a sale through available ID databases; and,
b) use delivery methods that verify the age and ID of the person accepting delivery.
“The provisions in this bill would apply these same requirements to the sale of vapor/e-cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products not currently covered under current law. Because the United States Postal Service (USPS) does not have the ability to perform age-verification at delivery, this bill essentially prevents tobacco companies from shipping e-cigarettes through the Postal Service.”
Tax vapor products at the federal level
“E-cigarettes are not subject to a federal excise tax like other tobacco products are. While some states do tax e-cigarettes, this federal tax loophole often means that e-cigarettes are cheaper than alternative tobacco products.
“This bill extends the excise tax to all tobacco products covered under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, such as e-cigarettes. The bill would also direct revenues raised from the federal tax on e-cigarettes to be allocated to the FDA’s Youth Tobacco Prevention and Education Plan.”
Ban e-liquid flavors
“This bill bans e-cigarette flavors unless the manufacturer can prove to FDA that their flavors meet three criteria:
(1) Help adults quit smoking cigarettes;
(2) Do not increase youth initiation of nicotine or tobacco products; and
(3) Do not increase the risk of harm to the person using the flavor.
“It would also ban cigar flavorings all together since there is no public health benefit to smoking cigars.”
Taxing vapor products at the same rate as cigarettes would add considerably to the cost. That would discourage many smokers from trying new products they’re already uncertain about. It might also drive some vapers back to smoking, or encourage a black market that would compete with established and trusted vendors.
Banning flavors would completely destroy the independent vape industry, since e-liquid sales is the lifeblood of vape shops and online retailers. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced bipartisan Senate legislation last year (the “SAFE Kids Act”) that would ban flavors. And in December, another bipartisan Senate bill was introduced to address the supposed epidemic of vaping in schools.