OLYMPIA — Vape shop owners from around Washington converged on the state capitol in Olympia, saying they would be forced out of business if legislation passes to tax vape products by 95 percent.

“We’re here today to oppose a 95 percent tax on a product that is proven to be 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes,” said Kim Thompson, a vape shop owner and co-founder-president of the Pink Lung Brigade, also known as the Anti-Smoking Alliance.

Vape business owners and consumers on Tuesday morning spoke out against House Bill 1873, co-sponsored by state Reps. Gerry Pollet, a Seattle Democrat, and Paul Harris, a Vancouver Republican. The legislation is intended to tax vape products as tobacco products.

More than 100 people from the Tri-Cities and Moses Lake, and south to Vancouver and northward to King and Kitsap counties, told lawmakers on the state House of Representatives’ Finance Committee that state tax revenue would vaporize and be lost to internet sales if HB 1873 passes.

Prior to the committee hearing, vape proponents shared their concerns and feelings.

Thomson says such legislation would be disastrous for vape shop owners.

“It would put them out of business,” Thompson said. “… These are small shops. Most of our products range from $80 up to $150 to $200. This tax would double the cost of that. It would cause the e-liquid, of course, to double in price as well. It would drive people either to tribal nations to purchase the product, across state borders, or online, basically smuggling and black-marketing and potentially do-it-yourself at the kitchen table, which would be quite scary.”

Margo Ross, who owns vape shops in Moses Lake and Kennewick, agrees with Thompson that the bill, which comes back every year, is a threat to the vaping industry. Ross is actively involved in attempts to kill the legislation.

“This is not a fair bill, from owners, to consumers to employees,” Ross said. “And as small business owners we have employees that we help to support their families and to put this bill through it will kill a lot of businesses. It will unemploy a lot of people.”

Vape consumer Tyler Dennison drove up to the state capitol from Vancouver to share why he wants to save the industry.

“I vape because it got me off cigarettes,” Dennison said. “I love it. I love the community and everything about it. I feel better and hopefully I look better… It’s really sad to see people that want to take this away from people who are brought together by something that’s very harmless.”

The lead sponsor and co-sponsor of the House Bill 1873 explained their positions, which were primarily focused on preventing youths from becoming vape users.

“I think it’s actually a real problem for our youth,” Harris told member of the House Finance Committee. “They get more nicotine. They don’t even know that.”

“You will save lives if you adopt a tax and prevent youth access because it’s the surest way of doing it,” Pollet said. “Secondly, you’re going to hear today that ‘Mom stopped smoking’ on e-cigarettes.”

He said he had a recent survey that shows through extensive evidence that ultimately mom did not stop smoking.

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