SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A bill that would impose a 7% excise tax on vaping products sold in Georgia is now on the governor’s desk.
On June 26, the Senate gave its final approval in a 45-8 vote of Senate Law 375 after the House vote of 123-33 on June 25.
The bill would also only allow adults 21 and older to purchase vaping products in Georgia.
“Convenience stores and gas stations routinely sell these items to kids. They had no reason to enforce the law because they had nothing to lose but the sale themselves,” State MP Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, told their share of the bill every vape vendor in Georgia required a license from the Treasury Department.
“To have the right to sell, you have to obey the law and have Treasury Department investigators look over your shoulder,” Rich told WSAV.com NOW.
In yet another attempt to further protect teenagers from accessing vaping products, Senate Bill 375 states that no one, including adults or teachers, is allowed to have vape or tobacco products in school security areas.
The 7% excise tax on the bill would be the first tax on vaping products in Georgia.
“The goal here was to equate these vape products with tobacco products because the tobacco industry has been paying excise taxes for a very long time,” said Rich.
“It is a matter of fairness to require these other nicotine delivery systems to pay an excise duty, much like we did with Airbnb and hotels and Uber and taxis,” she said.
Nelson Hill, general sales manager of Savannah-based Vape Loft, tells WSAV.com NOW that he thinks the tax is fair.
“We’re pretty happy with it,” said Hill. “We’re lucky enough to live in a state like Georgia where they don’t hate vaping. I think there is a lot of deformity and misunderstanding. “
He says he doesn’t feel that the tax is preventing his customers from enjoying vaping products.
“There’s money from some of these taxes that pay and produce a lot of things that we need, like school books, and that’s where a lot of that tax money comes from Big Tobacco,” said Hill, adding, “So with vaping, I think they are just trying to find a place where they can use part of our tax money to produce good too. “
The excise tax on vaping products could potentially bring in between $ 9.6 million and $ 14.5 million in sales.
Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, says the vaping tax would come at the expense of poor consumers and could lead many Georgians back to traditional cigarette consumption, which would be detrimental to public health.
“Vaping products aren’t just for fun, but because they are an alternative to ex-smokers who want to quit. By having this option, people can actually make their lives better and actually live longer, ”Ossowski told WSAV.com NOW.
He says such a tax is almost like punishing people for making “more responsible choices”.
“People who have deviated from traditional tobacco products now have to pay more for exactly what they bought yesterday, and the whole idea is that we have to raise money, but it really is a drop in the ocean,” she said Ossowski said.
“If we look at what’s going on at the state level, there’s a lot of money in the Rainy Day Fund, and we really believe that trying to increase the cost for consumers – especially poor consumers – who are trying to find a better option for their lives finding it is really unfair, ”he said.
After the House passed Senate Law 375 and the Senate gave its final approval, Governor Brian Kemp has until early August to decide whether to veto or legally sign it.
“If he does nothing after these 40 days, the bill will take effect. However, he also has the option to sign the bill within that 40 day period, which is a sign that he genuinely supports it, ”said Rich.
The cigarette tax in Georgia remains the same at 37 cents per pack – one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the country.