State lawmakers nix tax on nicotine-based vape products

    A proposed tax on smokeless tobacco products won't raise as much as a tax on traditional cigarettes but both are a possibility as the 2020 Legislature puzzles over ways to balance next year's budget. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Lawmakers Thursday rejected a plan that would stick a tax on vaping products over concerns that it labeled some nicotine products as safer than others.

    The proposed tax would have been chopped in half for federally designated “modified risk tobacco products” An example is snus, a kind of smokeless tobacco product tucked in the cheek.

    Rep. Mark Newton, an Augusta Republican and a bill sponsor, said the bill would define these new products, tax them and require any vendor who sells a vape product to get a license from the state. Online sales would also require the recipient to show an ID upon delivery.

    “Researchers are still learning of the potential effects of vaping,” Newton said. “But what we know is with the rapid growth of the brain and lungs in children, we know it’s crucial that we give special care and attention to keeping these out of the hands of adolescents and youth.”

    But some lawmakers frowned on the discounted tax rate for products deemed less harmful. Others likely just objected to the proposal of a new tax.

    “There may be changes that we need to make in the space of vaping but we don’t need to be sending the message that we’re going to cut taxes by 50% on some fiction that there’s a safe tobacco product,” said House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, a Luthersville Democrat.

    The bill failed with a 89-to-70 vote, attracting opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. Supporters were able to save the bill with a procedural maneuver, keeping the bill alive as the clock expired on Crossover Day.

    Jill Nolin
    Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.