Electronic Cigarette Taxes Cause Disabled Workers to Lose Jobs
Pennsylvania’s heavy-handed tax on vaping products has forced many vape shops in the state to close their doors. Some others are barely able to keep afloat while paying the 40 percent tax on vapor products they purchase for resale, but have been forced into other cost-cutting measures, like laying off employees. For one shop, cutting employee’s hours and being unable to hire additional workers is especially hard because the owner makes a point of giving jobs to people with disabilities.
Tony Myers, a native of PA, has a background in working with people who have autism spectrum disorder. His shop, About it All, started out selling custom apparel, while Myers continued to work with special needs adults and wanted to help them to find paying work. At first he was only able to accept volunteers, until his business built up enough money to be able to give one disabled worker a paying job. Much of that increase in income was due to his store’s expansion to include vaping products.
Myers has worked with other disabled adults in a training program, and he had intended to hire six more people from the program. But now, because of the state’s 40 percent tax on wholesale vaping supplies, he has had to put that plan on hold and cut the hours of his current employee, Ryan Garrett. Garrett, who has intellectual disabilities, is a college graduate, but he says he had difficulty finding a job until he heard about Myers’s shop.
Myers, who believes in vaping as a safer alternative for smoking, says that his heart is still in custom apparel, and he had wanted to grow that part of his shop to help fund his plans to hire more disabled workers. But now the severe damage the vape tax is doing to his business overall has cut into the finances he had to help both disabled area residents and his own dreams for his business.
The PA tax came about as part of a disturbing trend across the country towards taxing and restricting vape products because of an assumption that vaping is as dangerous as smoking. Though there is little to no evidence that vaping is harmful at all in the short term, e-cigarette opponents have successfully used “what ifs” about the long-term effects to put vaping products in a unique category where a product must be assumed harmful until it is proven to be completely safe. Though there are virtually no other products in the U.S. that are in this category, for now, both vaping businesses and those who benefit from them are stuck.
The only recourse is to protest the tax, and this has been done and is continuing. In addition to vaping users and sellers, some politicians have joined the voices that think the 40 percent tax is unjustified. The goal of PA’s primary opposition to the tax is not to eliminate it entirely, but to cut it to only five cents per milliliter of nicotine e-liquid. A bill to this effect was introduced by two state legislators last session, but so far it has not been voted on.