A vaping product tax could be created later this year if a proposed law makes it through the Kentucky General Assembly.

House Bill 32 would add vaping products to the list of smokable tobacco products that are subject to a wholesale tax, with that rate increasing from 15% to 25%. Traditional cigarettes are not subject to the tax. The bill is estimated to bring in about $50 million in tax revenue over the next two fiscal years, according to a fiscal note.

The bill’s sponsor, Jerry Miller, a Louisville Republican, said the tax would curtail smoking habits among children.

“The most effective way to attack underage use is through raising the price,” he said Wednesday on the House floor. “In economic terms, younger people are more price-sensitive.”

Miller has a companion bill, House Bill 69, which would regulate the sale of vapor products. That bill is currently awaiting passage in the House.

One local business owner believes the tax could hurt her business if the bill were to pass.

River’s Edge Tobacco Outlet Manager Elizabeth Leary said she believes it won’t be too long until vaping products are eliminated completely.

“They just keep bringing up more and more rules for it,” she said.

Leary referenced ongoing national efforts to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco dip and chewing products. A law was recently signed that raised the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 nationwide.

When asked about the possible benefits it could have to public health, Leary said it should be up to the individual to make that decision.

“It’s not good for you, no, but if people want to do it… it’s no worse than eating a hamburger at the end of the day,” she said. “If you’re going to die of something, you might else well die happy.”

The Messenger-Inquirer reached out to numerous local businesses but they did not respond as of Thursday afternoon. In 2018, about 23% of Kentucky adults said they were current smokers according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national median was about 16%.

Leary said the tax may encourage vaping enthusiasts to get their products on the black market.

“If they can’t come in our stores and get the stuff that’s good, they’re going to get the stuff that’s worse for them and there’s going to be more problems,” she said.

The bill passed the House Wednesday with a vote 75-17. It now heads to the Senate. If it passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. Andy Beshear, the new tax would go into effect at 11:59 p.m. July 31.

Trey Crumbie, 270-691-7297, tcrumbie@messenger-inquirer.com.

Trey Crumbie, 270-691-7297, tcrumbie@messenger-inquirer.com.

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