Only in the state of Washington would a bill so flagrantly foul as to enact a 95% tax on vapor products find support for consideration three times within a two year period. HB 1645 is the newest monstrosity that will grace the House Committee on Commerce and Gaming on Monday at 1:30pm.
Last year, the state of Washington also proposed a 95% tax hike on vapor products. The legislation was met with a multitude of opposition, and crowds of vapers on the front steps of the capitol building. Vapers were unhappy with just an increase in taxation, so why would Washington state legislators believe they wouldn’t be facing similar opposition to a bill that is grotesquely more destructive to the industry? Even worse is the fact that the enactments of HB 1645 stem from Governor Jay Inslee’s budget proposal, which means that even if shot dead in committee this time around it would not be entirely out of the question to be proposed a fourth time until the state session has ended.
Washington state has assuredly acquired the habit of introducing this type of legislation to attempt to fill the holes in their budget gap. Not only does HB 1645 propose to nearly double the price of e-liquid, but also attacks virtually all of the normal business practices of small vapor shops.
HB 1645 proposes to ban sampling, which allows consumers to find enjoyable flavors without having to potentially spend thousands of dollars purchasing a multitude of products in an attempt to find a good match for them. I’ve seen the effect of sampling bans first hand. Smokeless Smoking in Bloomington, MN was once the host of a myriad of classes on battery safety and re-build education. They had recently spent over $100,000 to upgrade their store to accomodate more lounge space. Vapers could walk into the store and sit with quite a few of their colleagues and discuss anything under the rainbow that would pass along helpful information. Since sampling has been banned in Bloomington, MN the store has become a desolate open area of space. Even customers that are considering purchase are forced 25 feet away from the entrance. It took decades of goading and bullying to prove to the general public that smoking should not be allowed indoors, but only 1 night of false pretenses by a group of 7 city council members to kick vaping out the door.
The bill also bans online sales of vapor products to Washington residents. Online sales represents part of the history of vaping. Many-a-time the most exciting part of the day for vapers is seeing the mail man walking up to their porch with their long awaited vape-mail. Since electronic cigarettes are such a new and growing industry, online sales not only allow consumers to expand their variety of products, but also gives convenience to vapers that are not in an area that a brick and mortar shop could feasibly operate. Elimination of interstate commerce in the attempt to keep the sales of any product in state is outlandish!
HB 1645 also proposes unique packaging and labeling requirements. While this legislation seems like a good idea, the FDA deeming regulations will more than likely supercede any labeling and packaging requirements. Individual state laws on labeling create confusion and expenses to companies. If 50 different states have 50 different laws, then a team of experts in labeling laws would be necessary for vape shops just to keep track of what has to go where. Again, child resistant cap laws seem like a good idea on the surface. However, many companies do not understand that there are federal standards (PPPA) that would need to be adhered to. Just because your bottle does not have a straight screw-off cap, does not mean that your bottles adhere to these federal standards. The more states that pass this law, the more difficult and expensive it will be to acquire the necessary bottles. This is a dilemma that needs to be handled at the manufacturing level.
Most importantly, this bill will eliminate artisan jobs due to flavor bans. Flavored e-liquids make up an overwhelming majority of the e-liquid market, and allows adult consumers to enjoy vapor products. Banning flavors flies in the face of requesting increasing tax revenue from this industry. How many vape stores would remain open if they were only allowed to carry tobacco, menthol or mint flavors? It’s a law that would crush the entire industry in the state of Washington and send every vaper back into the cigalike era. Vapers are an extraordinary group of people. They took an entire industry and have not only picked apart every aspect of the industry they disliked, but also created the necessary solutions to those problems. Now, legislation promises to take back all of the technological advancements created by consumers.
Even more unreasonable than all of these laws combined is the rationality that HB 1645 is being supported by. The bill reads that it “is in relation to the youth substance use prevention associated with tobacco and drug delivery e-cigarettes and vapor products”. That’s correct, the reason that adult consumers will have electronic cigarettes ripped from their hands is to protect a group of people that the e-cig industry can not either market or sell to. How do you make illegal more illegal? If enforcement is an issue, than deal with enforcement. If the issue is money, then tell the American people that it is about money. I challenge any legislator to put across a bill that bans electronic cigarettes based solely upon the merits of electronic cigarettes. But, to de-incentivise and limit the availability of a legal adult product with no legal basis means someone’s moral compass is broken. And, the fact that they’ve garnered enough support among other legislators to introduce this bill means that that someone is really good at skirting the facts on electronic cigarettes.
For more information on HB 1645, and how you can get involved, please visit www.casaa.org .