By Sean Hoade
In a move that no doubt has Big Tobacco (and its well-funded vape subsidiary, JUUL) very happy, Washington State has slapped a new “sin tax”—because the Nanny State is alive and well—on vape products to the tune of closed systems at 9 cents per milliliter and open pod systems at 27 cents per freakin’ milliliter.
For those of you not so good at math, that means that when your favorite vape store sells a 4-pack of a closed 1.1ml flavor pod like the Zalt, they have to either drive away customers by raise the price by 40 cents or eat that cost themselves. And if it’s an open system like the MOTI, then customers and the small businesses that serve them will be screwed by one of them having to pay over two dollars more for each 4-pack of 1.8ml refillable pods they sell.
With the tiny margins small vape stores already must operate on, this is something very likely to drive those retailers (not to mention the small distributors and entire small companies that produce juice, devices, or pods) right out of business. See how well your business does if you suddenly lose a dollar of revenue on every sale you make. Yeah … not well.
Which is the point.
“Wait,” you might be saying. “Why is this the point? Does this not have an impact on the 800-pound gorilla JUUL? They sell both kinds of vape systems. Won’t they take a huge hit as well?” The answer is that they certainly will … and their owner doesn’t care. In fact, it was support from the billion-dollar company that helped create this destructive tax in the first place.
Why? As usual, follow the money. Marlboro, the biggest of Big Tobacco, bought a huge share of JUUL last year for $12.8 billion. (Yes, that’s a “b.” As in “bullshit.”) This teeny, tiny investment has given Marlboro carte blanche to do things “that are good for the vape industry” because hey, it owns a vape company, too! They throw their billions upon billions of dollars to make vapes more and more expensive through support of sin taxes. (And if there is a more Nanny State term than that, I have yet to hear it.)
But, for some reason, Marlboro spends untold jillions of dollars to fight any additional taxes on cigarettes and other actual tobacco products. (Reminder: no vape juice contains tobacco. Most contain nicotine, which in itself is not harmful — and not proven to be addictive without the 7000+ chemicals Big Tobacco spikes cigarettes with to activate its addictive properties.) Why the difference?
Brace yourself … it’s not because Marlboro gives a rat’s ass about “the children.” They’d love it if every child started smoking at birth, already addicted because their mothers were smoking during their pregnancies, are you kidding me?
No, it’s because if vape devices and juices are taxed so they’re just as expensive as cigarettes, those same children they have to act like they care so much about due to FDA regulations will simply just try cigarettes. The price of vaping going up isn’t to protect children from (all current studies show) the 95% more healthful water vapor products; it’s going up to get children into smoking instead. And, as we all know, cigarettes—because of how they “enhance” their nicotine—are more addictive than heroin, just as addictive as cocaine, and as damaging to human health as breathing deeply inside a burning building. Once kids get hooked on cigarettes, they’re unlikely to quit for a long, long time … if ever.
So, great job, Washington State. You’ve just destroyed an entire industry that helps people get off cigarettes or prevent them from trying smoking in the first place, and in its place propped up one of the most evil industries outside of arms manufacturing. The children are the future, and the future looks sunny for Big Tobacco in the The Evergreen State.
Read an excellent article about this travesty at Seattle’s The Stranger.