States continue efforts to tax e-cigarettes as vaping grows
Word describing new type of smoking earns Word of the Year honor
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Electronic devices allow smokers to inhale smokeless nicotine vapor are increasingly popular. To describe this activity, the word vape was coined.
The Oxford Dictionaries today named the verb vape its 2014 Word of the Year.
Tax collectors, however, don't care what it's called. More and more of them simply want to tax vaping.
Only Minnesota and North Carolina have e-cigarette taxes in their tax codes, but more than two dozen state legislatures have explored similar tax bills during recent sessions.
Electronic cigarettes offer a promising new area of tax, especially since real tobacco taxes and public education have resulted in fewer traditional smokers. E-cigarettes sales have grown rapidly, from $500 million nationwide in 2012 to more than $1.5 billion in 2013.
That's a sizeable, and increasing, market for both nicotine addicts and state treasuries.
Arizona lawmakers are the latest to consider taxes on e-cigarettes. The new levy is seen as a way to help cover the Grand Canyon State's $1 billion budget shortfall.
Across the country in Virginia, legislation has been prefiled that would tax e-cigarettes sold in the Old Dominion.
How high a tax? The key issue, as with all taxes, is the rate.
In North Carolina, the home state of tobacco giant Reynolds American, Tar Heel inhalers pay a nickel for each milliliter of the nicotine liquid that e-cigarettes use. Minnesota electronic smokers, however, face taxes that are the same rate as regular tobacco cigarettes, which is 95 percent of the wholesale cost.
If the taxes would bring in much needed money for cash-strapped states, why haven't more been approved?
In addition to fighting the new tax on fiscal grounds, opponents of the efforts say they don't want to discourage what some see as a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking.
Official recognition for an old term: While state lawmakers, public health officials and smokers of all types continue the e-cigarette debates, the question about what to call the activity is settled.
Before taking Word of the Year honors, vape was among 50 words added to the Oxford Dictionaries in August. But the word has been around since 1983.
In the New Society magazine article "Why Do People Smoke" that year, Rob Stepney described hypothetical devices that would allow for delivery of metered doses of nicotine vapor.
"The new habit, if it catches on, would be known as vaping," wrote Stepney around three decades before folks actually began vaping.
"So it seem that vaping the word existed before vaping the phenomenon," said Eleanor Maier, an Oxford English Dictionary senior editor, in a video explanation of what the word means and why the esteemed lexicon arbiter chose it as 2014 Word of the Year.
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