Vape Tax Critics Say New Jersey Would ‘Rather Steal Money Than Have People Quit Smoking’

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Former smokers relying on electronic cigarettes to satiate their nicotine cravings are ripping into a budget proposal that would slap a 75 percent tax on vapor products in New Jersey.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is proposing a slew of new taxes and tax hikes in an attempt to tackle the state’s budgetary woes, which are proving unpopular with both parties in the legislature. Included in the proposal is a 75 percent wholesale tax on all vapor products, along with an increase of the wholesale tobacco tax from 30 percent to 68 percent, reported NJ.com.

Officials estimate the new fees will create $59 million in new revenue, but critics argue the taxes will force small businesses to close across the state, limiting access to harm reduction technologies for smokers. Vape advocates fear the tax will threaten gains made in reducing the adult smoking rate, pushing users back to deadly combustible cigarettes. (RELATED: E-Cigarette Giant Rips The ‘World Health Organization’s Silence On Vaping’)

“Whether they make it 75 percent or 40 percent or 30 percent, all it does is show they’d rather steal money than have people quit smoking,” Mike Moran, who opened a small business vape shop after using the products to quit smoking, told NJ.com. “And to me, that’s just insanity.”

The looming 75 percent tax would likely devastate the state’s vaping industry and make the products much more expensive for users, who tend to be former smokers.

In Pennsylvania, where a 40 percent tax on vapor products went into effect in October 2016, at least 120 stores have been forced to close their doors.

“At this tax rate they’ll eradicate our industry,” Mark Anton, a vape manufacturer and a leader of the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, told NJ.com. “Everyone is telling smokers they need to quit. They quit. They use this product now. But if you tax it at 75 percent, where are they getting their products if the stores close up?”

Anton also noted Murphy is a supporter of marijuana legalization, which he only proposes taxing at 25 percent.

“Does the governor prefer New Jerseyans get high over quitting cigarettes?” Anton told NJ.com.

Smokers looking to quit in Pennsylvania are increasingly having difficulty finding easy access to vapor products. Instead of encouraging smokers to make a health-conscious choice, officials in Pennsylvania are forcing residents to fall back on traditional tobacco products to satisfy their addiction.

Vapers fear a similar effect on public health in New Jersey if the measure is ultimately approved.

Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes, namely that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of American smokers quit combustible tobacco.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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