House Democrats on Wednesday added a tax on vapes to their $1.85 trillion Build Back Better Act, which experts say would target poor Americans and boost a dangerous black market.
The plan would tax vape products at a rate of $50.33 for every 1,810 milligrams of nicotine they contain. If passed, the tax would make vapes more expensive than cigarettes, which are taxed on a per-product basis. The tax would disproportionately hurt poor Americans, who are more likely to use vape products. President Joe Biden has pledged to not tax anyone who makes less than $400,000.
House Democrats had scrapped an earlier plan to tax all tobacco products in order to pay for Biden's trillion dollar spending bill. Tim Andrews, director of consumer issues at Americans for Tax Reform, said Democrats reintroduced a nicotine tax to pay for their proposed State and Local Tax reduction, a $500 billion tax cut for the wealthy.
"This is literally a case of reverse Robin Hood," Andrews told the Washington Free Beacon. "This is taking from the poor to give to the rich."
Andrews emphasized that taxing vape products would push nicotine users toward more dangerous tobacco products. Taxing vapor products at the same level as other tobacco products could deter more than 2.75 million smokers nationally from quitting, according to a 2019 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
"This is completely immoral," Andrews told the Free Beacon. "It will lead to more people smoking—it will lead to more people dying."
A tax on vapor products could also boost an already thriving black market, according to Richard Marianos, a former assistant director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Marianos said federal and state law enforcement have seized millions of unregulated vape products in recent years, which target minors with fruity flavors. These products, he said, are most often produced by international organized crime groups and sold by local street gangs in the states—forcing police to waste resources that should be going toward stopping rising homicide rates.
"This is the last thing they need when they’re trying to build strong community relationships," Marianos told the Free Beacon. "Now they’re going to have to become the vaping police?"
Amanda Wheeler, the owner of Jvapes and president of the American Vapor Manufacturers Association, said corporate vapor product suppliers may be able to survive the tax plan, but small businesses would be wrecked.
"We’ll be totally put out of business by this," Wheeler told the Free Beacon. "It's a draconian tax."