Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) is one of 12 sitting governors who has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment to voters to oppose and veto any and all efforts to raises taxes. If Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is to keep this promise to Georgia taxpayers, then he will veto a bill currently sitting on his desk that would impose an onerous tax increase on Georgia vapers. 

Despite being under firm Republican control, both the Georgia House and Senate passed Senate Bill 375, a tax hike projected to raise about $14.5 million in new tax revenue annually by creating a 7 percent tax on vapor products. ATR opposed SB 375 from the beginning not only because it amounts to a significant tax hike, but also because it will adversely impact the health of Georgians by making a less harmful alternative to cigarettes far more costly. 

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a vape tax in Minnesota prevented about 32,400 adult cigarette smokers from quitting. Similarly, a Georgia State University study found that for every 10 percent increase in taxes on nicotine vapor products, cigarette sales rose 11 percent. That same study also found that e-cigarette sales dropped 26 percent, indicating vape tax hikes push consumers to use traditional combustible cigarettes instead. 

In many cases, misguided government policies are merely frustrating, but in this case it is literally lethal. While there are risks associated with vaping, it is clearly much less harmful than smoking. In fact, the global consensus by health expertes is that vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes.  

The vape tax hike approved by Georgia lawmakers in June was not the first tax hike they passed this year. Earlier this year, the Republican controlled Georgia legislature passed House Bill 276, which amounts to a massive $150 million per year tax hike by forcing out-of-state marketplace facilitators to collect and remit sales taxes on online purchases in made by Georgia residents. 

The proclivity for tax hikes on the part of Georgia Republicans makes them an outlier in a region full of GOP-run legislatures that have been busy cutting taxes in recent years. Lawmakers in Florida and Tennessee cut taxes this year as a way to spur the economic recovery. North Carolina Republican legislators have been able to enact pro-growth tax cuts in recent years, overcoming the opposition of a Democrat governor who wants to raise taxes. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Georgia have a Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer in their governor’s mansion and keep sending him tax hikes.  

Governor Kemp should veto SB 375 because it’s a mid-recession tax hike on a product that helps people quit smoking, and also a regressive tax hike that will disproportionately harm those who can least afford it. If that weren’t enough, Governor Kemp should also veto this tax hike because, by doing so, he’ll uphold one of the key promises he made on the campaign trail two years ago.