Starting this month, e-liquid purchased for e-cigarettes, or vapes, will now be subject to an increased W. Va. state tax. The new law will increase the price of e-liquid by 7.5 cents per milliliter.
According to W. Va. 7th district senator, Ron Stollings, he advocated for a tax on vape products because he believes it is a gateway into a nicotine addiction for young people.
“Up to 50% of children are vaping and whether they know it or not, they’re going to be addicted to nicotine,” Stollings said.
Stollings said the fact that young people are vaping is something that the industry wants to hide from consumers and instead advocate for the positive side effects of it.
“The vape shops don’t want to tell you about that, what they want to tell you about is how people can quit smoking by starting to vape and it might be a little better for them to have just nicotine instead of tar and all that other stuff that comes with cigarettes,” Stollings said, “but they don’t tell you the huge increase in the number of kids in grade school, middle school and high school using vape products.”
The owner of Danville’s vape shop Applachian Fog, Chad Howell, said that e-cigarettes as a gateway drug is a myth. He said there have been research conducted that disprove this.
“That’s been proven time and time again to be false in numerous studies,” Howell said, “They’re saying you’re going to save millions of lives if you leave this alone.”
Howell is referring to a very recent study conducted by the United Kingdom Centre For Substance Use Research. This study determined that while there are a large number of young people vaping, it actually discourages them from consuming other tobacco products. It specifically referred to vaping as a “roadblock” to combustible tobacco.
Additionally, Howell also said the majority of vape stores do their part in keeping the product out of the hands of those under the age of 18. It is currently illegal to sell vape products to anyone under 18, but even when it wasn’t Howell said the industry regulated itself.
“We haven’t sold to anyone under the age of 16 since we opened, that has been our store’s policy,” Howell said.
Howell said he has personally benefited from the use of e-cigarettes, he said he was able to quit smoking because of it.
“I smoked two packs a day for 20 years, I would lay down at night and hear myself breathing. Two days after starting [vaping], it was gone,” Howell said.
What Howell is most concerned about is his business. He said that because this tax only exists in five states, most online retailers will now be more affordable than any store in W. Va.
“Online sales are going to be cheaper than our sales, even though we did have the sales tax, now we’ll have this that will push it up 30 percent per bottle, that’s quite a bit,” Howell said.
Howell is also worried that the W. Va. Legislature is singling out his industry specifically. It concerns him that there are not taxes for several other smokeless products.
“Nicorette, why aren’t they taxing that? It has nicotine in it. Lozenges, why don’t they tax them? Nicotine inhalers, real close cousin, why don’t they tax it?” Howell said, “It feels like they’re targeting us because it looks like smoking, when it’s not smoking.”
When the tax was first announced, Howell was worried his shop was going to have to close its doors. He was relieved to find out that this tax does not include a much more stringent floor tax, which would have required him to pay taxes on everything currently in his inventory. He said he is going to stay open for now, though he is not sure for how long.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen next month, people might walk in here and see how much it costs and walk out,” Howell said.
“Othe Lor tobacco products got taxed and I was adamant that they got taxed.”