Alabama Vaping: Proposed $.25/ml Tax is Outrageous Taxation!

10173779_10202740608250117_8073589848151138563_nThe Alabama Legislation has a special session scheduled to fix the state’s budget (the one that the Alabama Legislation screwed up in the first place). So what is their solution? Well, looking at the proposals for the special session, it seems clear that regular hardworking taxpayers are going to get stuck with the burden of getting extra money into the state to fix the problems. And yet not a single proposal mentions large corporations here in Alabama.

I have a vested interested in this proposal as a vaper who has been cigarette free for over three  years now, and as an administrator of the North Alabama Vapers.

Here are two missives I sent to the people who supposedly represent me in Alabama government:

To Rep. Laura Hall (District 19):

Rep. Hall,

I encourage you vote down the proposed tax increase on e-cigarettes. The proposed $.25/ml tax will increase the price of an average bottle size of juice (30ml) by $7.50 in the state of Alabama: making e-cigarettes more expensive than cigarettes, thus potentially driving those of us who have successfully quit smoking back to smoking. E-cigarettes are not a tobacco product any more than eggplants are (yes, eggplants contain nicotine).

The purpose of the tax is to increase tax revenue to the state, but it will have the opposite effect.

1. The tax will drive Alabama vapers to purchase juice from outside the state, thus eliminating tax revenue. Let’s be honest, people do not claim their $1,000 TV they bought on Amazon on their Alabama Tax Return, so they’re definitely not going to claim $50 in juice.

2. The lack of juice sales at local stores will begin shutting those stores down, thus eliminating the sales tax currently being generated in those stores.

3. Once stores begin closing down, employees will lose their jobs, thus eliminating state income tax for those employees and putting them in the position to be paid unemployment, food stamps, etc, which will increase the burden on Alabama’s budget instead of help reduce it.

4. Once people start smoking again, the health benefits they have reaped will reverse, which will ultimately be felt with Medicaid and Medicare dollars.

A general tax is one thing ($.25/bottle perhaps), but the outrageous tax being proposed will shut down the industry in Alabama and have the complete opposite effect.

Instead of punishing the taxpayers, where is the proposed legislation to remove tax breaks for large corporations in Alabama? Where is the legislation to remove tax loopholes being taken advantage of by million dollar corporations right here in Alabama?

Please make sure that Alabama doesn’t punish the wrong people with a burdensome taxation.

Thank you for your consideration!

Respectfully,
RBS

To Senator Paul Stanford (This started as a pro forma from CASAA, but I modified it and personalized it:

Dear Senator Sanford,

I am writing as a voter and taxpaying constituent urging you to oppose any new tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products. E-cigarettes are an incredibly low-risk alternative to smoking, and subjecting this potentially life-saving technology to any extra tax would work against the interests of public health. Moreover, this proposal could also lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs here in Alabama.

Vapor products are already subject to a general sales tax. Subjecting smoke-free vapor products to extra sin taxes and other punitive regulations that are designed to discourage smoking is grossly inappropriate. Changing the law to tax low-risk vapor products in a manner similar to traditional cigarettes will actually create barriers for adults to quit smoking, something that is indefensible from a public health standpoint. Increasing their purchase price will only serve to encourage Alabama s one million plus adult smokers to continue smoking instead of making the switch to products that are estimated to be 99% less hazardous than cigarettes.

While smoking is widely known to pose significant and potentially devastating health risks, each year only approximately 3% of smokers will successfully quit. Innovative products that further the public health goal of reducing smoking should be promoted. There is overwhelming evidence, ranging from systematic studies to thousands of detailed testimonials, showing that e-cigarettes help many smokers quit or reduce their smoking habit, even after they have unsuccessfully tried every other method.

I am also concerned that enactment of this tax would shut down numerous Alabama businesses. Over 2,000 people are estimated to be employed in the vaping industry in Alabama at the current time, and the taxes contained in this bill are so enormous that it is unlikely that more than a handful of stores would survive. While this measure is designed to bring in revenue to the State of Alabama, the end result will likely be less jobs, less tax revenue, and less access to low-risk vapor products, all of which will result in more smokers deciding not to quit.

Moreover, I am concerned that my access to vapor products will be dramatically reduced. Not only will many independent vapor retailers close their doors, but those remaining will be severely limited in the range of products they will be able to offer for sale since they will have to deal with Alabama-permitted wholesalers who do not (and likely will not) handle the full range of products that I am accustomed to purchasing from my local brick and mortar vapor shop.

If the goal of this measure is to increase tax revenue by hurting tax-payers, it will only have one effect: hurting taxpayers. It will have the opposite effect on tax revenue. Vapers will order online and will not claim the purchase on their Alabama tax return (let’s be honest, they’re not claiming that $1,000 tv they bought on Amazon, so they’re definitely not going to claim $100 in juice from an online store). Vapers will travel to southern Tennessee, western Georgia, eastern Mississippi, and the Florida panhandle to purchase juice, thus increasing the sales tax revenue of surrounding states. Vapers will purchase DIY products online and make their own juice. Stores will close, eliminating the sales tax those stores will generate. Employees will be let go, thus eliminating state income taxes those employees would have been paying on their payroll checks.

Vaping is not smoking. Electronic vapers are not cigarettes. They are not a tobacco product. They contain nicotine, just like Nicorette, which is not regulated as a tobacco product. Nicotine is contained in potatoes, zucchini, and many other products we consume daily, including chocolate. Vaping appears to be more successful than any other cessation program because it addresses the psychological addition (oral fixation, filling the lungs, etc) and it does so without harmful chemicals, toxins, or carcinogens like cigarettes do. It does so with water vapor, that has been shown in multiple studies to have zero toxins: including “second-hand” vapor.

I urge you to not punish tax payers with an outrageous taxation on the vaping community. I can tell you that my physician is astounded at my general health improvement over the last three years since I quit smoking and started vaping. Already x-rays are showing clearer lungs and my bloodwork is coming back normal for the first time in over fifteen years. Now multiply my story times tens of thousands or more and think of the money saved on healthcare, medicaid, medicare, etc.

Increasing the cost of my juice with an outrageous taxation will make cigarettes cheaper. Do you really want to put people back on cigarettes?

Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
RBS

Sen. Sanford actually responded to me the same day:

I adamantly oppose the tax but I believe my cohorts in Montgomery will pass a 25cent tax on cigarettes & cape product. I suggest you contact every member of the Madison a county Delegation and voice your concern.

Sent from my iPhone please excuse any typos

Paul

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