Published on May 7th, 2013 | by Trick5
South Carolina to Tax E-Liquid
A measure working its way through the South Carolina legislature aims to tax e-cigarette products containing nicotine at the same rate as traditional cigarettes. H. 4074, sponsored by Representative Michael Pitts (R), has been formally introduced and is currently in subcommittee.
Pitt’s reasoning is that, as e-cigarettes become more popular, they should be taxed at the same rate as traditional cigarettes. Opponents say higher prices would deter people from quitting cigarettes, and there have been allegations that this bill is part of a coordinated effort on the part of “big tobacco” companies like R.J. Reynolds to use legislative influence to stifle competition. According to Bill Godshall, founder of Smokefree Pennsylvania, “Reynolds bills [such as H. 4074] seek to set the stage for banning or severely restricting Internet and mail order sales of vaping products.”
“The biggest concern about this legislation … is that they seek to give the e-cigarette industry to Big Tobacco, [because] PM, Reynolds and Lorillard already have contracts with all licensed tobacco retailers.” -Bill Godshall
We find this sort of legislation difficult to justify. Presumably, cigarette taxes are enacted to help pay for the health care costs incurred by smoking, and to make smoking less attractive, so people quit. In this case, there are no known health costs related to e-cigarettes, and making e-cigarettes more expensive will obviously not make quitting tobacco easier, and is quite likely to have a negative health effect, rather than a positive one.
E-Cigarette advocate groups like CASAA are already mobilizing to fight H. 4074, calling for help combating the measure at their website. According to CASAA, the bill would not only tax e-liquid, but would subject e-cigarette retailers to abide by lengthy regulations and make it a criminal offense for South Carolina residents to purchase e-liquid from out-of-state unless the file a tax return for all purchases by the 20th of each month.