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Governor Cuomo Spearheads Tax On Vapers In New York

Buried in a massive $152 billion state budget request released last January, New York governor Andrew Cuomo decided to take aim at vapers statewide…along with their wallets.

Cuomo's proposals would include expanding existing local bans on the use of vapor products in school, restaurants, and workplaces, where tobacco cigarettes are already banned. It also aims to tag vapers with a new e-liquid tax of ten cents per milliliter.

The tax would apply to all e-liquids, regardless of whether or not they contain nicotine or tobacco products in general – though in the FDA's eyes even 18650 batteries and Kanthal wire could technically be considered "tobacco products."

New taxes on vaping are expected to supplement falling revenue from tobacco taxes. Though New York's tax rates on tobacco are among the highest in the nation, overall revenues are expected to fall from $1.3 billion in the 2015-2016 fiscal year to $1.2 billion this year, continuing to drop in years to come.

While the vape tax is only anticipated to bring in $3 million to start, state reports note that vaping is rising in popularity even as smoking rates fall (side note: we find this "coincidence" rather amusing).

Unsurprisingly, vape advocates are fighting back, with the American Vaping Association calling the push to equate vapor products with cigarettes through an expansion of the ban an example of a "nanny state on steroids."

"It makes no sense to treat these tobacco-free, smoke-free, and often nicotine-free products the same as deadly combustible cigarettes," said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, in a statement when the New York legislature originally passed the ban last fall.

Meanwhile, state senator Brad Holyman of Manhattan is pushing for a ban on e-liquid flavors similar to the one being considered in New Jersey.

"Kids are attracted to the numerous flavors that the cigarette companies are selling, such as fruit punch, gummy bear, cotton candy," says Holyman, calling even zero-nicotine vaping "a gateway drug" leading to future tobacco use.

For justification, Holyman points to a marked rise in e-cig use among state high schoolers, declining to acknowledge that at the same time smoking rates among the same population have fallen to the lowest point ever recorded, nearly seven times lower than in 2000.

His case is buoyed by scare-tactic articles like this one that do their best to blur the line between, or even ignore completely the marked difference in health risks between vaping and smoking.

Another bill is also in the works at the statehouse. This one would ban coupons and discounts on tobacco products. A carve-out would exempt products like nicotine gum and patches that are ostensibly designed to help people quit smoking, though again one needs to keep in mind that in the government's eyes vapor products are designed to keep people using tobacco rather than as an effective quit aid that's been proven to help millions nationwide kick a tobacco habit.

All of this means some crazy and potentially rough times may be in store for vapers and potential tobacco quitters in the Empire State. As always, we'll continue watching the situation and will keep you posted.