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October 17, 2023

To: Members of the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee

From: Americans for Tax Reform

Re: Reject House Bill 1161

Members of the Committee,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across Pennsylvania, I urge you to reject House Bill 1161. This reckless legislation includes numerous provisions that would destroy Pennsylvania vaping businesses and remove life-saving alternatives to smoking from the market, leading to lost jobs, lost revenue, and lost lives.

HB 1161 would ban menthol cigarettes, flavored e-cigarettes, and even those products that earned FDA authorizations under the “appropriate for the protection of public health” (APPH) standard. 

This legislation is so extreme, it would ban smoking-cessation products the FDA has authorized and those it’s reviewing. The ban would include most nicotine pouches that don’t even contain tobacco, and the menthol variants of heated tobacco products that don’t combust, like IQOS. These products don’t expose the consumer to smoke, and are infinitely healthier alternatives to combustible cigarettes.

At this time of high inflation and skyrocketing cost-of-living, a bill that would prohibit a legal product that small, family-owned vape shops rely on for profits would drive many of these stores out of business. HB 1161 would kill countless jobs and would cost small business owners their livelihoods. 

Pennsylvania’s small vape shops are already struggling with double taxation and high taxes.

The state would also lose out on a significant amount of tax revenues. Real world evidence from Massachusetts demonstrates that flavor bans come at significant cost to the state. Since Massachusetts implemented a ban on all flavored tobacco products in the middle of 2020, cross-border purchases and the creation of a booming black market have more than made up for the decline in sales in the Commonwealth. In the first since months since the ban was enacted, Massachusetts retailers have sold 17.7 million fewer cigarette packets compared to the same six months in the prior year, while neighboring Rhode Island and New Hampshire have combined to sell 18.9 million more as Massachusetts residents stocked up across state lines. This policy failure is costing Massachusetts more than $10 million each month in excise tax revenue. Pennsylvania would be making the same  mistake with HB 1161. 

Criminal syndicates would benefit. Most tobacco smuggling is run by multi-million-dollar organized crime syndicates who also engage in human trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism which US State Department has explicitly called tobacco smuggling a “threat to national security”. Paradoxically these bans may also increase youth usage in the state: By definition, criminals and smugglers are unlikely to obey laws and would not follow rigorous age-verification requirements mandated at reputable outlets. 

HB 1161 would restrict the freedom of adults to choose a less-harmful alternative to cigarettes. Vapor products have been proven to be at least 95% safer than combustible cigarettes and studies have repeatedly shown that flavors in vapor products, which HB 1161 would prohibit, are critical to helping adult smokers make the switch to vaping.

It is vital for Pennsylvanians who are looking to quit smoking, and overtaxed small businesses, that legislators reject HB 1161.


Grover Norquist


Americans for Tax Reform