Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) today submitted testimony in opposition to Washington’s HB 1550, legislation that would increase the Business & Operating tax on tobacco businesses by a jaw-dropping 1000%. HB 1550 would also increase taxes on lifesaving reduced risk tobacco alternatives like e-cigarettes and vapor products which would keep adults smoking – and dying from – traditional combustible cigarettes. 

ATR State Affairs Manager, Ben Rajadurai, wrote: “If enacted, this bill would have a disastrous impact upon not only business in the state of Washington, but public health as well.” 

Rajadurai noted that, “Over 40% of cigarettes consumed in 2018 were purchased through cross-border shopping and organized smuggling due to tax rates on tobacco that are already remarkably high in Washington. Contrary to popular belief that tobacco smuggling a victimless crime consisting of someone purchasing a few extra cartons across state lines, most tobacco smuggling is run by multi-million-dollar organized crime syndicates. These networks, who also engage in human trafficking & money laundering, have also been used to fund terrorist and the US State Department has explicitly called tobacco smuggling a “threat to national security”. 

Rajadurai noted the growing body of research illustrating the effectiveness of vapor products as a harm reduction tool for adults looking to quit smoking which is 95% safer than traditional combustible tobacco. Extrapolating from an analysis conducted by Georgetown University Medical Center, over 150,000 lives would be saved if a majority of Washington smokers were to make the switch to vaping,  

Rajadurai concluded: “HB 1550 would tax e-cigarettes and vapor products at such a high rate that it would drive people to more deadly alternatives like traditional combustible cigarettes. This goes against every principle of sound public health policy. Minnesota is serving as a case study on this already. After the state imposed a tax on vaping products, it was determined that it prevented 32,400 additional adult smokers from quitting smoking. A small increase in revenue should never come at the host of human lives.” 

The full testimony can be read here