Locals protest vape tax amid store closures
Mike Curry was planning to expand his vaping products business last year before a state-imposed wholesale tax was imposed.
Curry, owner of LifeSmoke Vapors, which has five locations, including one in York County, said he must now plan to close one of his stores by April if the tax isn't reformed.
The 40 percent wholesale tax on vape products went into effect in October, and an estimated 100 vape shops have closed since then, according to the Pennsylvania Vape Association. Business owners also were forced to pay tax on their existing inventory.
Vaping is an alternative to smoking, and supplies include electronic cigarettes and liquid that, when heated by an atomizer in the e-cigarette, turns into vapor that can be inhaled.
Curry and other vape shop owners were joined Monday morning in the state Capitol building by legislators and advocates to voice support for legislation to reduce the tax to 5 cents per milliliter of e-liquid.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Greene and Washington counties, and Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Lycoming County, was proposed late last session but stalled and was never voted on in the House.
Tony Myers, owner of About It All and About It All Vapors in Hanover, said he's staying optimistic, but the Legislature should have passed this bill last year.
"They had the opportunity last year, but they swept it under the rug," he said. "It dims my hope a bit."
Myers has been using revenues from his vaping business to employ adults with special needs, but he said he's been forced to lay off six of those seven employees because of the tax.
"Nothing is better than instilling these people with a purpose," he said. "And nothing has been harder than telling those six individuals they can't help anymore."
Advocates from various organizations stressed throughout the rally that vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes, and many shared stories of how the products have helped them quit smoking.
Curry said he used to smoke two or more packs per day, but vaping has helped him avoid cigarettes for more than five years now.
He started his businesses to help others quit smoking, he said, but it's only a matter of time before all vape shops go out of business in the state if the tax isn't repealed.
"We can only survive on no profits for so long," he said, pointing out that the profit margins on his products were slim before the tax.
About 100 members of the vape industry and their supporters attend the PA Vape Assoc. rally in Harrisburg
Myers echoed that sentiment, saying he might have to move his business to Maryland for it to survive.
Speakers at the rally emphasized that this tax, intended to help close a budget deficit by bringing in additional revenue, will end up reducing state revenue when all the stores close, leaving hundreds unemployed.
Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, spoke during the event.
As he has often said, Wagner noted his opinion that “Pennsylvania doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.”
He told the crowd that no industry, regardless of what it is, should be targeted to fill budget holes.