West Virginia Governor Jim Justice committed to phasing out the states income tax in his 2021 State of the State Address. His proposal, submitted days ago to the state legislature for review, includes a hike in the states e-cigarette tax from 7.5 cents per millimeter of e-liquid to 75 cents per milliliter.
Under the proposal, a 100 milliliter bottle would carry a tax of $75, a 1000 percent increase. The bill also increases the tax on combustible cigarettes by 80 cents per pack, bringing the total to $2 per 20 cigarettes.
At 75 cents per ml, a standard 30ml bottle of e-liquid would carry a $22.50 tax, which is 12.5 percent higher than the proposed tax burden on a full carton of cigarettes (200 cigarettes) if taxed at $2 per pack.
In a story for Filtermag.com, many West Virginia vapers, vape shop owners, and tobacco harm reduction advocates—is that many will return to smoking or resort to a dangerous black market to save money.
“We won’t be able to stay in business,” said Cheryl Lockhart, the owner of Hazy Hollow Vapors in South Charleston, West Virginia. “Nobody is going to pay for that.” The tax on the bottle would be more than the cost of the bottle itself, and most of what Lockhart sells—she ballparked up to 90 percent—are 100 milliliter bottles of e-juice. “I don’t see any path around it,” she told Filter. “It’s just one more thing.”
Another concern is that West Virginia vapers may turn to neighboring states such as Kentucky and Ohio to make e-liquid purchases and denying the state any tax dollars from vapor products. This is what happened when Massachusetts increased its vapor tax.
“No other state has a one-size-fits all volume tax higher than 10 cents per milliliter, yet Governor Justice and his team concluded that 75 cents per milliliter is rational,” said Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association. “While they may see this tax hike as a ‘small’ part of their overall plan, this is going to anger a whole lot of voters and cause them to believe their elected officials would prefer they keep smoking cigarettes.”