New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week issued his annual budget plan, which includes a proposal to tax vaping in the state for the first time. Specifically, the budget (were it to become law) would impose a tax of 10 cents per millimeter on the liquid or gel used inside any kind of device. That means vape and e-cigs purchased in Brooklyn are about to get more expensive.
Not that much more expensive though. A Bedford Slim cartridge, which has 1.2 mL in e-liquid, would each go up by barely 10 cents. It's not exactly going to break anybody's bank. Even the someone who uses pretty heavily will only go through about 2mL per day. That means you're paying an another $1.40 every week. That adds up to an extra $73 annually. Money is money, but most people who can afford to vape can afford that.
The problem is more the precedent. Once a fee exists in a government budget, it will always be increased every year the budget is renewed.That's just a fact of life.
If the new fee is enacted, which seems likely, it won't actually start impacting prices until the fall. It's scheduled to take effect 180 days after the start of the fiscal year, which happens to be April 1. That means the vaping would get a little more expensive in Brooklyn and throughout New York State beginning September 28, 2017.
So why is this happening? The official reason is that it's for public safety. New York State is taking the same stance as pretty much every other level of government, that vaping is as bad for you as cigarettes and should be subject to the exact same level of regulatory restriction.
But perhaps the real reason is that cigarettes sales are on the decline and, as a result, tax revenue from cigarette taxes is going down as well. The state was relying on the money from cigarette taxes. And while I'm sure officials are somewhat glad that fewer people are smoking, they also must find somewhere else to make up that tax revenue. A tax on vaping was most likely just an easy way to fill the hole. The proposed fee is mindless, but not particularly surprising.
The question is how far this will go. Will the taxes on vaping eventually increase enough to the point that it makes e-cigs significantly more expensive? It certainly seems probable. Lawmakers always find it easier to ratchet up fees than to do meaningful tax reform. Vapers don't have much in the way of political clout. If someone needs to get taxed, it's just as likely to be them as anyone else.
It's the latest in a string of bad news when it comes to vaping in Brooklyn. Earlier in January, a state appeals court struck down a challenge to New York City’s indoor vaping ban. Vaping advocates had attempted to make the argument that vaping should not be regulated the same way as smoking because it's entirely different kind of combustible. But to no avail. For all the talk recently about how the government is starting to come around to the benefits of vaping lately, there's still a long way to go.