HELENA — Opponents are lining up against a proposed 50-percent tax on vaping products.
Twelve people testified against Senate Bill 96 on Tuesday. They argued e-cigarettes have nicotine, but they don’t have tobacco and shouldn’t be taxed like tobacco. Robert Story, executive director of the Montana Taxpayers Association, said taxing vapes is just putting a sales tax onto a specific retail item.
“It could be candy bars. It could be soda pop. It just happens to be vaping products,” Story said.
However, those who spoke in favor of the bill cited the harmful, addictive effects of nicotine. American Cancer Society representative Kristin Page-Nei said taxing cigarettes has shown a 60-percent decrease in use by minors. She also said minors who use vape products are more likely to use cigarettes, and a tax could help steer minors away from them both.
“Don’t be duped,” said Paige-Nei. “This is just another product that’s being promoted that addicts our kids.”
Opponents of the bill also argued that vape products have helped people to stop smoking cigarettes altogether. Freedom Vapes owner Ron Marshall said the nicotine in vapes is not much different than the amount in nicotine patches or gum.
“Taxing a product that helps people?” Marshall said. “I don’t see a point in that.”
Proponents of the bill, including the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Montana Medical Association, acknowledged vapes can help stop people from smoking cigarettes, but said continual nicotine use is seen as a last resort.
Last November voters rejected a ballot measure, I-185, which would have put a 33 percent tax on e-cigarettes.
Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.