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  • DC Launches Anti-Smoking Campaign A Week Before Taxing Vape Shops Out Of Existence

    D.C. Council Member Yvette Alexander announced Tuesday that the week of Sept. 20, 2015, would forever be known as “DC Calls It Quits Week.”

    The announcement comes just one week before the city plans to implement a 67 percent tax on e-cigarettes, effectively taxing vape shops out of existence.

    Alexander brought a gaggle of people to the front of the council chambers to make the announcement and to encourage “everyone in the District of Columbia to put down those cigarettes.”

    “Put down those tobacco product today, and hopefully this can be the beginning of a new beginning for anyone who smokes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, even marijuana,” she declared while being congratulated by fellow council members and community activists.

    Alexander introduced a ceremonial resolution and rattled off a litany of statistics regarding the ill effects of tobacco use and the difficulty of quitting, in order to make the week officially recognized by the city.

    “Smokers desiring to quit should have access to approved therapies, such as counseling, nicotine replacement therapy — and that does not include electronic cigarettes — pharmaceutical interventions, as well as multiple channels for outreach and support,” she said.

    “I had to throw that in there,” Alexander quickly added, referring to the e-cigarettes.

    Earlier this summer, the city passed The Vapor Product Amendment Act of 2015, a small provision in the 2016 budget support act, that adds e-cigarettes to the list of “other tobacco products” that are already taxed at a higher rate.

    Prior to the tax hike, which will take effect Oct. 1, vape products were only taxed at the 5.75 percent sales tax rate, like most other products sold in the city.

    Dave Oberting, a candidate for D.C. Council and executive director of the Economic Growth DC Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the tax on e-cigarettes is simply just not a good use of the tax code.

    “Taxes should be used to raise revenue and not to micromanage human behavior,” he said. “In this case, the District has managed to destroy four small businesses and discourage the use of a safer alternative to smoking at the same time.”

    According to a Committee on Health and Human Services report, the city expects the tax to bring in $380,000 additional dollars in 2016, though that may not be the case.

    “The city very may well lose revenue as a result of this tax,” Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, told TheDCNF.

    That’s because, already, two of the four vape shops in the city have said the tax will force them to close their doors.

    Fadi Khalaf told TheDCNF he has already made plans to close M Street Vape, a store he opened less than six months ago in downtown Washington. He said he just doesn’t make nearly enough profit to pay a 70 percent tax.

    According to Conley, it’s not just the city that will lose out when the vape shops close up, but it will disproportionately hurt poor people in the city who would like to give up smoking.

    “This is the absurdity of the movement in the anti-tobacco community,” he said. “This tax is forcing these people to keep inhaling burning smoke into their lungs.”

    These people will be unable to pay the 70 percent tax on e-cigarettes, which can be a heavy up-front investment for equipment, but cheaper than cigarettes in the long run.

    Alexander did not return request for comment about how the new tax would impact poor people and vape shops.

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