A new round of tobacco and vaping legislation is on the agenda in Rhode Island this week, as representatives meet to discuss an increase in tobacco taxes that would apply across the board. Rhode Island is one of many states to deem e-cigarettes and vapor products as “other tobacco products,” making them subject to the state’s increasing tobacco taxes.

Setting the Mark

Article 8 of House Bill 7133 referred to the House Committee of Finance seeks to establish a tax on all tobacco products at 80% of their wholesale value. That number is sending shockwaves through the vapor community as vape shop owners and adult vapers alike gear up to fight the tax.

A meeting is set to take place Wednesday, March 22, 2017 in Room 35 of the State House. Constituents will have the opportunity to speak up about their feelings on this tax proposal, and share why they support or disapprove of it.

The Ripple Effect

Many people throughout Rhode Island fear that this tax will have a negative impact on public health and the local economy. An 80% tax would raise the price of many vapor products above that of traditional cigarettes, potentially encouraging some users to return to their old habits.

Those against the proposal argue that the original tobacco tax placed on cigarettes is meant to offset the cost of healthcare to the state for smoking-related illnesses, but there is little evidence that vapers are at risk of cancers and other diseases as a direct result of vaping. They also fear for the livelihood of vape shop owners who may be faced to close their doors if their products become too expensive for the average consumer to afford.

If the bill were to pass, it would go into effect as soon as July 1, 2017, marking an immediate change in the outlook for vapor product sales in Rhode Island.

Statewide vape coalitions are rallying to fight the tax by distributing information about the potential downsides of its passing. They are asking members of the community to join them at the State House on Wednesday to ensure their voices are heard.

The meetings are scheduled to be live streamed through the RI Legislative website, or they can be found on Capitol TV according to your television provider’s channel guide. The discussion of tobacco and vapor products is expected to take place in the afternoon following the discussion of sale tax exemptions. The full text of the proposal can be found here.