Some cities and counties around the Northwest are tightening up local rules on businesses that sell e-cigarettes. And shop owners in Washington state are bracing for a tax fight at the legislature in 2015.
Owners of so-called vape shops say e-cigarettes shouldn’t be treated like tobacco, because they aren’t tobacco products.
E-cigarettes heat up a flavored, often candy-like liquid containing nicotine.
“I’ve got a million flavors under the sun out there,” said Brad Bellinger, who owns Lilac City Vapor in Spokane.
Bellinger said e-cigarettes helped him kick a 20-year smoking habit. He supports banning sales to minors, as Washington and Idaho have already done, but he’s worried about Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal to put a 95 percent tax on e-cigarettes.
“Because it would double the price for everything,” Bellinger said. “It would be cheaper to smoke again.”
Bellinger said he would consider moving his business across the border to Idaho if the tax is approved.
The Inslee administration said the proposal would tax vaping products the same as tobacco and would raise $18 million in the next budget cycle.
Inslee is also asking the legislature to require that e-cigarette distributors and retailers be licensed with the state Liquor Control Board.
Meanwhile, Northwest counties and cities are taking action on their own:
• In Grant County, Washington, starting New Year’s Day e-cigarettes will be banned wherever smoking is banned. Retailers will be required to post signs saying sales to minors are prohibited and restrict access to products.
• Earlier this month, Lane County, Oregon banned sales of e-cigarettes to minors.
• In Idaho, Nampa banned the use of e-cigarettes in city buildings. Last year, Meridian banned them from city parks. Craters of the Moon National Monument banned vaping in public facilities and in caves.
Meanwhile, the FDA is expected to announce its own set of national rules on e-cigarette sales and packaging in 2015.
Health advocates argue vaping is still addictive and the effects of breathing in the chemicals in the liquid haven’t been fully studied. Groups like the American Heart Association say the sweet liquids and colorful devices appeal to children and aren’t necessarily a smoking deterrent. They point to one recent study that suggests use of e-cigarettes make some teens more likely to pick up smoking later.