Pennsylvania Senate Committee advances vape tax change

The Pennsylvania Senate Finance committee advanced a bill that would eliminate a big tax on vaping products and e-cigarettes, and replace it with a lower tax.

To help close Pennsylvania's massive budget gap, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation last year that hit the products with a 40 percent tax.

It had major consequences for vaping cafes and stores.

"We closed the end of March," said Beth Huyett, owner of Twisted Star Vapors in Robesonia, Berks County.

She and her husband owned the business, where people would purchase vaping products, hang out, and also buy juices and coffee.

Huyett told 69 News that vaping helped her and others quit smoking, but the tax killed her growing business.

"We were being hit with a 40 percent floor tax as well as a 40 percent wholesale tax," she said.

What that means is she had to pay a 40 percent tax on anything new she bought and a 40 percent tax on almost everything she already had in the store.

So, for example, if a store had $100,000 worth of inventory, it had to pay $40,000 to the government.

The Pennsylvania Vaping Association told 69 News that 120 vaping businesses have closed since the tax began on October 1. Most of those stores employed people.

"I don't do anything right now. Still looking for a job," said a former employee of Twisted Star.

Huyett doesn't know what she is going to do either.

"At this point, I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out what our next step is," she said.

Supporters of the tax say it provides much needed revenue and helps public health.

"There's some evidence that e-cigarettes are a gateway drug to tobacco cigarettes, with young people in particular," said Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center.

He said any impact on business is minimal, and worth it.

"In the end, if we can create more jobs at businesses that sell products that aren't harmful to our health, that's a good thing," Herzenberg said.

It's unclear whether the full Senate will consider the bill.

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