Smokers Are ‘Ending Up Buying Cigarettes’ As Vape Access Declines Under Massive Tax

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Dwindling access to vapor products under a massive electronic cigarette tax in Pennsylvania is causing smokers who previously quit with a vape to take cigarettes back up.

Vape shops in the state are struggling to stay afloat due to a 40 percent tax on vaping devices imposed last October. Despite ever mounting research showing the devices drastically reduce the risks for developing smoking-related cancers, smokers looking to quit in Pennsylvania are increasingly having difficulty finding easy access to the products, reports The Philadelphia Citizen.

Instead of encouraging smokers to make a health-conscious choice, officials in Pennsylvania are forcing residents to fall back on traditional tobacco products to satiate their addiction. Harm reduction advocates argue these restrictions are ultimately damaging to public health in the state and places lives at risk.

“One thing I hear a lot is people saying ‘I couldn’t get nothing [vape juice] out there, so I ended up buying cigarettes,'” Shane King, a manager at Love Vape in Philadelphia, told The Philadelphia Citizen. “They couldn’t find coils for their devices, that kind of thing. It happens a lot.”

The wholesale tax on electronic cigarettes is devastating the state’s once burgeoning vaping industry. The tax is responsible for closing at least 120 stores since implementation last October, representing roughly 25 percent of all vaping businesses in the state,  the Pennsylvania Vaping Association says.

A survey recently conducted by the Pennsylvania Vaping Association of vape shop owners shows that another hundred stores are anticipating imminent closure if state lawmakers do not take action this year to overturn and replace the law. A bill has long been under review in the state legislature that would replace the wholesale tax with the 5-cent-per-milliliter sales tax on liquid nicotine; however, vaping advocates in the state say there is currently little momentum for reform.

Many officials in the state defend the tax, arguing the annual $13 million in promised revenue is desperately needed for the state. Critics, however, note the tax is not economically sustainable, because annual revenue will diminish as more vape shops close their doors.

Public health experts focused on harm reduction argue if government officials are serious about reducing the smoking rate in Pennsylvania they should be promoting instead of stifling the industry.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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