Earlier today (05-23-16) all eyes were on the Capital Building in Charleston, as vapers from across the state of West Virginia gathered at the State capital to pay very close attention to the bill that threatened to close down the majority of their local vape shops but will drive the prices of vapor products into a tax bracket that would have been higher than the cost of traditional tobacco.
In an effort to improve the quality of the State’s bank balance, the proposed budget would have increased the cost of e-liquid by 7.5 cents per millilitre ( along with other excise and production taxes that would have been ultimately passed on to the consumer) as a part of a plan designed to pull the State out of a financial black hole.
A total of 3 amendments were brought to the floor with regards to removing technology that has the ability curb the smoking habit from the proposed sin tax, and we are pleased to report that 2 of the 3 will be added to the budget.
Initially brought to the floor was an amendment that would have excluded all but cigarettes from the budget, a measure argued by many in the house that would do little to dissuade the youth from getting into the habit of using nicotine. Many on both sides of the aisle brought up great points in the debate but the common consensus was simple. Other tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, cigars, cigarillos and wraps were already considerably less costly than cigarettes and this was encouraging their use.
Delegates from both parties agreed early in the argument that an amendment that excluded nothing but e-cigarettes/vaping devices would be the desired outcome. As the polls were opened on this first piece of legislation, no one was surprised to see it fail.
Next onto the floor was Delegate Larry Faircloth with the first of his two proposed amendments and his arguments were impressive. As an ex-smoker who has used vaping devices to become smoke-free, explaining his journey of 6 months to become free of nicotine but still vaping for the flavor, this lawmaker has become educated on these products. His explanation led to a member of the house making a statement that I believe will become a rallying cry for the entire industry:
We are putting cigarette taxes on products that do the same job as nicotine gums and patches.
Other members on the floor were still somewhat confused by the concept of vaping, especially with the recent FDA regulations that paint e-cigarettes as nothing more than a new form of smoking, while others have spent way too much time reading reports from Hong Kong and getting their information from, I believe the back of lavatory doors.
One lawmaker, also a doctor, attempted to paint a picture which has long been discredited in the real world. He made the argument that vaping is responsible for a massive rise in pneumonia cases and also that vaping is associated with an increase in MRSA patients in hospitals around the world. These are studies that I, as a writer, would love to get my hands on because the last time I checked no one had even considered linking vaping to MRSA.
These scare tactics may have become useful tools in other places around the country but this morning, in the State of West Virginia politicians chose health care and facts over deficits and lies.
We would like to congratulate Delegate Faircloth, the business owners and vapers of West Virginia in this victory and hope that other states around the country take a long hard look at this decision before rushing headlong into legislation that goes against the best interests of the general public. While the bill has not yet had its final vote, this important step will remove these products from the future of this particular piece of legislation.
On a separate note, many of you may know that Delegate Faircloth is also embarking upon a battle against the FDA, in which he desperately needs our help. If you haven’t already signed the letter, please follow this link and add your name to the people who want to make a change.