The state of Connecticut needs money, and they’re looking to the vaping industry to fill in those funding gaps.
On Monday, April 27, members of the finance & bonding committee in the state’s legislature heard testimony from vape shop owners and others who sell e-cigarettes and vaporizers, all of whom were opposed to a new proposal targeting vendors of these tobacco-free products.
If the proposal passes, the state would force vendors to pay $100 to register and then another $500 for a license to sell the products.
The measure would affect about 50 stores in Connecticut that sell e-cigarettes and a number of the unique vaporizers available on the market. However, there are also hundreds of gas stations and convenience stores throughout the state that also sell these products.
In the United States, there are an estimated 16,000 vape shops throughout the country, according to the Smoke-Free Alternative Trade Association.
Nick Ricciardi, who owns three shops in the state, said that he understands the state’s need for money, but he doesn’t approve of the methods being used to target vape suppliers. These devices can sell for anywhere from $50 to $100 to upwards of $450 to $800 for some of the more advanced systems like a model by vape company Evo.
“I understand where it’s coming from as a Connecticut resident,” he said. “The state needs money. They need to raise funds. We just want to make sure that they’re doing it on an equal playing field scale.”
Ricciardi also explained the need for lawmakers to separate vaping products from tobacco ones.
“Too many people try to lump us in with tobacco. We are not tobacco. We are anti-tobacco in fact,” he said.
But supporters of the new measure state that e-cigarettes, because they contain nicotine, aren’t any healthier than cigarettes. The American Lung Association says that vaporizer fluid (called “e-liquid”) contains carcinogens and doesn’t necessarily lead to quitting smoking, something that proponents of the device claim it helps with.
Some lawmakers in Connecticut agree with Ricciardi and others. State Rep. Jeffrey Berger, who chairs the committee on tax policy for General Assembly, says that vaporizers and e-cigs shouldn’t be lumped in with tobacco cigarettes and thus shouldn’t be taxed as such.
However, he does agree with the state’s move to license stores that sell vaping products in order to give the industry some legitimacy.
“This is a way that the committee needs to move forward both on the revenue side and the accountability side,” Berger said.