OLYMPIA, Wash. - E-cigarette smokers lined up Friday to testify against a bill that would treat their tobacco-free product like regular tobacco products.
E-cigarette supplies and hardware are currently taxed at the regular state sales tax rate. A bill would place a 95 percent tax on distributors of those e-cigarette products, just like cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
"I pay my taxes very happily, but I feel this bill to be asinine," said Tammy Brookins, manager at Olympia's Volcano Vapor Cafe.
She fears that essentially doubling the cost of her businesses products could put Volcano Vapor out of business. She also says it could scare cigarette smokers from converting to what she believes is a healthier alternative.
"I feel like it saved my life," testified Zach McLain, who said he no longer smokes cigarettes after changing to tobacco-free e-cigarettes.
One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said the e-cigarettes should be taxed like a tobacco product because the vapors contain nicotine.
"This nicotine product is highly concentrated," said Carlyle, "It needs to be taxes in a parallel fashion, in my view, to traditional tobacco products, especially as it evolves towards young people."
Susie Tracy, with the Washington State Medical Association, supports the change in the tax structure, citing reports of increased use among middle and high school students.
Tracy told lawmakers there have not been any studies done looking at how much healthier e-cigarettes are compared to standard cigarettes.
Several e-smokers testified they use nicotine-free vapors and therefore should not face the tobacco tax.