The following is a guest post from Brian. As always, the content and opinions expressed are that of the author and not me.
It’s a testament to how effective e-cigarettes are as a smoking alternative when you take a look at how New York City’s revenue from cigarette sin taxes decreased dramatically in 2015. This has been the trend across the country ever since e-cigarettes became a popular alternative to cigarettes for millions of smokers throughout the United States. City and state officials then did the only thing they could do in an effort to increase their tax revenue: they made e-cigarettes the bad guy. America’s biggest cities have imposed some of the most insane taxes on vape products and e-liquid, with Chicago leading the nation in abusive taxes on e-juice and e-cigarettes. The sky-high taxes on e-cigs in Chicago seem like a punitive measure to discourage smokers from taking away from big tobacco’s profits. Mayor Rahm Emanuel kicked off 2016 by raising e-cigarette taxes in Chicago exponentially. This came on the heels of a campaign that sought to villainize vaping with scare tactics and misleading posters plastered throughout the city. So, how bad are things for vapers in Chicago? Worse than you could possibly imagine.
If you run out of e-juice in Chicago and you don’t have time to buy online, you’re stuck paying around $25 in taxes alone for a $14 bottle that contains 30 ml of e-liquid. That’s right, Chicago vapers have to pay more in taxes than they have to pay for the actual product they’re purchasing. This tax includes a charge of 80 cents per vape product, in addition to a charge of 55 cents for each milliliter of e-juice. Sounds pretty terrible, right? Don’t worry. It gets worse. In May of 2016, Cook County (where Chicago is located) added a tax of 20 cents per milliliter of e-juice. Ok, so Chicago taxes a 30 ml bottle of e-liquid at roughly 160%. How is this affecting vapers?
Rather than reinvigorating the economy, the vape tax in Chicago is causing shops to close left and right. At the end of January, Vapor4Life owner Steve Milin closed the doors of the Chicago brick and mortar vape shop he ran in Lincoln Square. He flat out refused to charge customers extra to offset the tax. Other e-cigarette shops in Chicago have taken a similar approach. Many have chosen to increase costs, which creates a barrier to new customers and pushes many old customers away, forcing them to buy vape supplies online or drive to stores just outside of the city.
It’s not unheard of for a big city like Chicago to take a step like this to fatten its pockets, but politicians need to consider the bigger picture. Vaping has become a lifestyle for many people in Chicago. They choose e-cigarettes over cigarettes, so it doesn’t make sense to manipulate them to the point where they’re unable to afford to vape. Furthermore, if you’ve ever walked down the street in Chicago, you know that cigarette butts are everywhere. A lower vape tax could encourage more smokers to make the switch to vaping and help decrease this disgusting litter. It would be great for Chicagoans if its government would choose to focus its energy on more pressing issues and when it comes to vaping…simply butt out!