Friday, May 16, 2014

Call to Action! North Carolina Bill would Impose a Separate "Sin" Tax on "Vapor Products"

UPDATE 6-1-14:  The North Carolina Call to Action has been concluded.  Legislators in North Carolina regrettably decided to burden North Carolinians with a new tax.  Fortunately, the tax is relatively modest, but the precedent of any additional tax on these incredibly low-risk, potentially life-saving products is a step in the wrong direction.

UPDATE 5-27-14:  The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to consider HB 1050 TODAY. Please see the information contained in the 5-23-14 update below and make your voices heard.

UPDATE 5-23-14:  Having raced through the House, the bill is now in the Senate Finance Committee.  It is IMPERATIVE that vapers and harm reduction advocates act IMMEDIATELY to express strong opposition to this sin tax.  It is possible that it will pass out of committee (and on to the full senate) as early as Tuesday, May 27th, 2014.

A new CQ Roll Call Campaign has been created to combat efforts by RJ Reynolds and Lorillard to impose a tax that will disproportionately impact their competition and that we, the consumers, will ultimately pay.

THIS LINK will take you to the email campaign directed at the members of the Senate Finance Committee.   ALL North Carolina residents can participate, even if you do not have a senator on that committee, because emails are also being sent to the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.  Note that the beginning and end of your email are provided, and you can add your personal message in the middle.  "Talking points" are provided to highlight some of the issues you may wish to address in your personal message.

THIS LINK will take you to the phone campaign directed at members of the Senate Finance Committee.  Please input your personal information to see if your senator is a member of that committee and, if he/she is, take a moment to call and express your opposition.

Please take five minutes of your time to let your elected officials know that it is NOT acceptable to impose a sin tax on a product that stands to save millions of lives.


RJ Reynolds is at it again.  Last year, they introduced a tax on e-cigarettes in Oklahoma, and we beat them back.  This year, they managed to get a tax on "vapor products" introduced in North Carolina. (See HB 1050, p. 51)  Their idea is to get a separate tax on the books that isn't particularly onerous in hopes of preempting efforts to tax e-cigarettes at some of the draconian rates suggested by other states (like the tax we beat back in Washington State earlier this year).

RJ Reynolds Vice President David Powers was quoted as saying,  “I promise you, you’ve never heard me or anyone in any other industry stand up and ask for their products to be taxed, but yes, ma'am, we are (asking to be taxed).”(Not exactly true given they tried pretty much the exact same thing last year in Oklahoma.) Lorillard agrees:  "Gregg Perry, a spokesman for Lorillard Inc., said the company supports the e-cig excise tax proposal. Lorillard’s blu eCigs product is among the top-two brands in the United States."

Of course, the tobacco companies don't mind a "modest" sin tax, because that tax is paid by consumers, not the tobacco companies. But once we agree to a "sin tax" in any amount, we're going to be fighting efforts to increase that tax each and every year, as evidenced by this statement:  Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, called the proposed 5 cent tax a "good place to start," but he added that lawmakers may  need to consider raising it in coming years as the state budget begins to lose revenue from people making the switch from traditional to electronic cigarettes.

And that's the problem . . . lost revenues and the state's dependency on tobacco "sin taxes."  But e-cigarettes, estimated to be 99% less hazardous than smoking, shouldn't be subject to a "sin tax." Anything more than a general sales tax applicable to consumer goods sends the wrong message.  RJR says that a tax is inevitable, so it wants the tax to be a reasonable one.  Our response is that e-cigarettes are already taxed (general sales tax).

HB 1050 was introduced on May 14th, 2014, and was referred to the House Finance Committee, where it received a favorable report on May 15th.  It has been placed on the House Calendar for May 20th, where it will be considered by the full House.

If passed, HB 1050 would, among other things:

  • Define e-cigarettes as "vapor products," not "tobacco products" (a characterization which CASAA supports); and
  • Impose a 5 cent per milliliter tax on e-cigarette liquid (which CASAA opposes)
FIRST, send an email:  This link will take you directly to the site for CASAA's email campaign for North Carolina HB 1050.  You'll note that it asks for personal information. This is necessary for your email to be delivered to the appropriate recipients.  (If you allow the program to save your information, it should be automatically generated for you the next time you visit to participate in a campaign.)

The email for the campaign has a beginning and end that aren't editable. The middle, however, is for you to add your story. 

(This campaign is a beta run of CASAA's new CQ Roll Call program, so forgive (and report) any glitches and offer feedback.  Some people have reported that when switching between open tabs on their browser or when keeping the window open for an extended period of time, text may be lost. Thus, you may wish to prepare your story--to be inserted in the middle of the email--in a word processing document and then copy and paste it into the email when you are done.)

SECOND, call your Representative:  This link will take you to the site for CASAA's phone call campaign for North Carolina HB 1050.  Input your personal information, and the site will provide a list of people you are to call, the phone number, and talking points.  (For this campaign, you will be directed to contact your state representative only.)


Rory Lackey said...

Also this bill if passed will require vapor stores to get a license. Wholesale $25.00, Retail sales $10.00.

Andrew Sabol said...

Thank you for the heads up. I've emailed and left voicemail with my state rep. Let's hope some good comes out of this.

Arnie Horton said...

Emails sent out!

M. Welcome said...

I have sent my email and hope they listen!

V Ann Foster said...

Well, it looks like its going to the Senate for a vote...and yes, NC will lose revenue if it doesn't pass-they've admitted that! I sent my email and called.

Tammy TaDow said...

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
― William Paley

Included in my personal statement. I thought it was appropriate. This is gone beyond the point of ridiculous.

Michael J. McFadden said...

" But once we agree to a "sin tax" in any amount, we're going to be fighting efforts to increase that tax each and every year,"

Very well said and very true.


Teresa Fox said...

God forbid if anyone was to have any fun. The Gov. Think they GOD by being out judges. Oh dare you play god . Good greif.. why so many hoops? This isn't fair . We have did the hard part. Putting the real cowboy killers down. We have already gone broke due the the sin tax on them forcing us to give in. Damn .. give us a break.

Michael J. McFadden said...

The price is kept cheap for two reasons:

1) It'll be accepted without a fight, and then once it's in place it's a fait accompli and they can raise it by thousands if they want -- to force up the price of the products. And....

2) "The power to tax (or license) is the power to destroy." Any new rules they come up with (e.g. no bright colors near the store front that might hypnotize children walking by) can be implemented without passing any laws: the new rules will just be "administrative license regulations."