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Utah Backs Off Brutal Vape Tax Scheme - Somewhat

Utah Backs Off Brutal Vape Tax Scheme - Somewhat


Utah Backs Off Brutal Vape Tax Scheme - Somewhat

Taxation levels for Utah vapor products nearly went off the rails before being roped back in by lawmakers this week. Initially, one legislator had proposed a jaw-dropping 86.5 percent vapor tax - that call was muted by the state’s House Committee, which instead recommended a 29 percent tax hike, which seems almost reasonable by comparison (it probably isn't).

The change in proposals represents a considerable pullback, but it would still ultimately hurt the vapor industry that relies primarily on a small business model. The vaping community has said that this type of tax increase would undoubtedly kill off small businesses, pointing to Pennsylvania as a precautionary tale - the state two years ago imposed a 40 percent tax on vapor products and saw hundreds of businesses go under as a result.

Brad Parsons, who owns the VaporLoc retail store, worries that exorbitant taxes would drive Utah shops out of business while doing little to address what he suspects is the primary source of underage product access - online sales (ed. note: we have a comprehensive age and identity verification process at Breazy, as customers who've used our service will be aware).

"Our shops basically card everybody every time, without a doubt," Parsons told the Desert News. "Please tell me … any business in the state of Utah that can absorb an 86 percent tax on durable goods they bring in and still survive...It can't happen."

Perhaps most discouraging about this attempt to raise taxes specifically targeting vapor products is the amount of misinformation and scare-mongering that that has gone into the into the campaign by Utah’s lawmakers in order to sell the idea that vaping is an “epidemic” amongst youth in the state.

"We have an epidemic among our youth, and it's called electronic cigarettes," offered the sponsor of HB88, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, when making his appeal for an 86.5 percent tax on vaping products.

The rhetorical description of vaping as an "epidemic" or otherwise as a problem to be dealt with is a classic scaremongering technique that has plagued vaping virtually since the first plume of steam began to dissipate. The point has been argued from various directions; from the assumption that fun-looking flavors are meant to attract a younger generation of vapers (adults also happen to enjoy things that taste good), to reports of an uptick in vapers within high schools (which is a problem that indeed needs to be addressed).   

It’s true, kids shouldn’t get into vaping. But to ignore the fact that vapor products represent a viable and proven safer alternative to smoking for adults is misleading at best.

A study published last year in the journal Harm Reduction serves as an answer to the hysteria about teenagers trying vapes that has consistently polluted the public debate  e-cigarettes.

While the study notes that there were substantial increases in the numbers of youth who have tried e-cigarettes from 2011 to 2015, the study also shows that most youth vaping is "either infrequent or experimental" and that only a tiny proportion of young people who report using e-cigarettes are actually doing so on a regular basis.

The problem with most studies conducted about vaping that contributes to a public and legislative outcry against vaping are usually studies conducted with unrealistic simulations that don’t actually showcase how people vape in real life.

We'll see how things go with the new tax proposal of "only" 29 percent, but if past cash grabs by state legislatures have proven anything, it's that this probably doesn't end well for Utah vapers.