Purity Can Be Taxing

Frank Sinatra is my favorite singer. In the 1950s, Sinatra popularized the concept album, which was a record containing songs focusing on a central theme. One such album was ‘Come Fly With Me,’ which was designed as a musical trip around the world. In addition to the title track, it featured the songs ‘Autumn in New York’ and ‘April in Paris.’

The album also contained the tune ‘Moonlight in Vermont.’ The lyrics describe icy streams, falling sycamore leaves, ski trails on a mountainside, evening summer breezes and the warbling of a meadowlark. The song about the teddy bear state evokes images of a “romantic setting” that hypnotizes young lovers.

It seems Vermont wants to maintain the image of a pure destination for youth based on its latest tax hike.

Last week I wrote about San Francisco becoming the first city in the U.S. to ban e-cigarettes. While Vermont hasn’t outlawed e-cigs altogether, it has now subjected them to a 92% tax.

The new tax, which was passed in February but went into effect on July 1, is intended to curb youth vaping in the Green Mountain State. The bill was sponsored by State Rep. George Till, who indicated that kids are most affected by price increases, so the new tax will hopefully help keep these products out of their hands. This is critically important, for as he told CBS News, “we know that these companies are going out of their way to get kids addicted.”

Regular packs of cigarettes, which are already subject to a $3.08 tax, will not be impacted by the new law. E-cigs were previously subject to the state’s standard 6% sales tax, as were other tobacco-substitute products, including those “intended for human consumption by smoking, chewing, or in any other manner.” Under the new measure, these products will now be taxed at the same rate as pipe tobacco and snuff, a form of smokeless tobacco, at 92%.

As a result, e-cigarettes, which were previously cheaper than traditional cigarettes, will now cost about the same. Till, who is also a physician, explained, “We are trying to keep the tax across all nasty things the same.”

In addition to the tax increase, Vermont passed two additional bills that went into effect on July 1 that are also aimed at controlling youth e-cigarette use. The first raises the legal age for purchasing and using cigarettes, e-cigarettes and tobacco products from 18 to 21. Anyone under 21 purchasing these products will be arrested for statutory vape. The second measure requires vendors to be licensed as a wholesale dealer or to have purchased products from a licensed dealer before selling in store or online any “tobacco products, tobacco substitutes, substances containing nicotine or otherwise intended for use with a tobacco substitute, or tobacco paraphernalia.”

San Francisco implemented the ban over fears that consumers believed that using e-cigarettes is safer than smoking. City officials wanted to ban e-cigs until more research is conducted to substantiate this belief. According to Till, Vermont has taken the same cautious approach. “To say that e-cigarettes are safer is pretty non-sensical. There are many of these types of devices and it will be a long time before we ever know if they are safer,” he said. “My bet is that we will find some devices are safer, and some are more dangerous. But we don’t know that yet.”

It’s a sure bet teenage users of e-cigarettes will be outraged over Vermont’s new laws. Some are calling it the Vapes of Wrath.

The following two tabs change content below.

Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

Latest posts by Reg P. Wydeven (see all)