The town of Clarion, Pennsylvania has been exposed to the consequences of new vaping regulations and taxes passed by the state and the FDA much sooner than most around the country. One such vaping business, called Smoke 4 Less, was opened by a man named Bob Oesterling in Clarion, PA in 2010. When vaping increased popularity, he began to sell vaping devices and products in 2012, followed by becoming a vaping wholesaler called Kingdom Vapor in 2013.
Mr. Oesterling can be credited with not just building his own business from the ground up, but for introducing smokers to vaping who may not have otherwise been exposed to it. Hundreds of Bob’s customers ended up quitting cigarettes and tobacco chew and started vaping instead.
How many lives have been made better by getting rid of cigarettes in those households and out of his customer’s lungs, we can only guess. However, it is clear that by providing a much safer alternative to smoking, that traditional cigarette smokers are more willing to switch over to cut down nicotine gradually (in order to quit) or simply vape to consume their nicotine without all of the harmful additives in cancer sticks.
The Pennsylvania Tobacco Products Act
With the implementation of the state of Pennsylvania’s Tobacco Products Act, now in effect since the 30th of December, 2016, Bob, among other vaping industry business owners worry that their entire livelihoods will go under.
The new Tobacco Products Act, which we wrote about previously when the act was passed (see article below), is now putting an insane 40 percent tax on E-Cigarettes (E-Cigs), Vape Pens/Mods, E-Liquid/E-Juice, as well as vaping and E-Cig products that do not even contain nicotine, such as: batteries, coils, cotton, chargers, wire, tanks, drip tips, etc…in the state of Pennsylvania.
These products make up around 50 percent of Bob Oesterling’s sales as a tobacco/vape shop. The same can be said for many business owners — and what of those who own shops that sell vaping/E-Cig products and accessories only? Those are their entire sales!
As we have been writing about, this tax increase is being copied by other states and the federal government is on board to continue to regulate and help the process of taxation against vaping and E-Cigs.
For those of us who vape, whether it is to consume nicotine in a safer manner, to quit smoking, to address respiratory issues, or to quit traditional and deadly cigarettes — we all suffer. Businesses who want to stay in business will have to not only pay to have each of their products approved by the FDA before selling them, but they will have to raise their prices to compensate for the taxes, which will trickle the price increase down to the consumer.
The government is essentially trying to make money off of us and punishing vapers until they can no longer afford to purchase vaping products. Many will go back to cigarettes, which I don’t need to tell you what the consequences will be on their health, their family’s health, and their lives in general. This insane tax rate is going to impact the vaping industry in Pennsylvania harshly and I would not be surprised to see vape shops going out of business, switching to online sales only, and consumers going to the internet or neighboring state (who have yet to be taxed) for their vaping products.
Now Bob is Fighting Back
However, Bob Oesterling of Smoke 4 Less (and his vaping wholesale shop, Kingdom Vapor) in Clarion, PA is not giving up without a fight. On Tuesday, December 20th, 2016, Oesterling filed a petition with the Commonwealth Court against the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, seeking a declaratory judgment that would state that the new tax hike would only apply to E-Cigarettes and the liquid used within them.
Essentially, what Bob is seeking, is not to deny the tax hike outright, but have the state government tax the RIGHT THING. Rather than taxing batteries, tanks, non-nicotine products, coils, cotton, and other items, he is asking for the government to have some sense and make this tax applicable to the nicotine liquid and the E-Cig itself.
This would make a huge difference as the individual components would not be taxed at the 40% tax rate, which every vaper agrees, is not remotely fair. In addition to the 40% tax on the wholesaler, the Tobacco Products Act also requires retailers pay a 40% tax on inventory they keep on the floor.
When a wholesaler buys their product as stock, they pay 40% tax — they sell their product to individual shops, who must also pay 40% tax on floor inventory — then you have the consumer who pays the tax when they purchase their items. See the problem? This is unsustainable for the vaping industry and is an all-out war against the safe alternative to cigarettes.
How Can They Do This? Lack of Knowledge and Protest
Think of it this way: how would Americans feel if beer mugs, shot glasses, wine glasses, bottle openers, and other products related to alcohol were taxed at 40% simply because people use them to drink alcohol? It would be pandamonium. The same idea applies to Bob Oesterling’s petition with the Commonwealth Court.
The Act defines “electronic cigarettes” as the devices used for inhalation as well as the liquid placed inside of them. This does not name individual components — Bob’s petition actually has excellent points and a stable ground. His petition is stating that the attempt to tax non-nicotine and E-Cig items (such as coils, cotton, and other components) by the Executive Branch of the government is in effect, an improper effort to expand upon the legislative definition. This would make the Tobacco Act a violation of the doctrine of the separation of powers.
In addition, Bob’s claim states that it is a violation of the Uniformity Clause that requires taxes to be uniform within the same class of subjects as well as equal protection and due process. And guess what? This tax is way higher than products in the same class of subjects. So, personally, I would say that Bob Oesterling has a very good argument — one that every vape shop and vape consumer shares.
Unfortunately, over 70 vaping stores have closed in Pennsylvania due to the first act that was implemented on October1st. Seventeen of those closed stores were customers of Bob Oesterling’s wholesale business.
The point is, over-taxation has a huge trickle-down effect that affects:
- Business Owners (and their families)
- Smokers looking to quit
…and the health of human beings trying to eliminate cancer, disease, and their dependence on government-sanctioned cigarettes.
Is the Government Trying to Fill their Coffers? Yes
At vape.net, we never try to write articles that are conspiratory in nature — at least, not on purpose. But in this case, there really is a simple truth — one that makes us lose faith and respect that we had left in our federal, state, and local government (even if there was only very little left).
What is their motive for taxing the hell out of vape and E-Cig products? Even the coils and batteries in an attempt to make off with as much cash as possible? The fact is that the number of traditional cigarette smokers has decreased by a substantial amount since the safer practice of vaping began.
This means that with the decrease of smokers has meant less money has gone to the state in the form of taxes due to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. In 2014, they received $233 million from tobacco sales. While they should be happy (at least publicly) that less people are smoking, which is better on families, the healthcare system, etc…they really aren’t. Instead, the government is trying to profit as much as possible on vaping to make up for the loss in cigarette revenue. By taking them out of business, it is a win-win for the state government.
They tax vaping products as long as they can. If vaping businesses go out of business, the odds are consumers will go back to traditional cigarettes, where the state will get back their revenue.
That’s not just screwed up on an ethical level but a moral level as well. With the FDA trying to persuade people to avoid vaping (and essentially, stick to smoking, which is deadly), they are complete backtracking on their promise to remain scientific, unbiased, and ethical in their determination of product, drug, and food safety. As a government agency, they will do what they can go keep the money coming and this is by jumping in the pockets of local and federal legislatures who are paying them to continue backing smoking and destroy public opinion on vaping.
The fact that the public knows the deadly effects of smoking just shows that they are relying on a lack of knowledge by the public and a lack of resistance in order to pass these tax hikes and legislative bills.
However, if people like Bob Oesterling as well as anyone reading this continue to fight back for the safer method of nicotine intake known as vaping, then perhaps we can make it harder for them to tear down alternative options to smoking.
Want to Help?
We don’t know Mr. Oesterling personally, but his fight for vapers and his fight to repeal this terrible tax is inspiring and we wish him the best on behalf of all vapors and vape shop owners and wholesalers.
You can visit his wholesale website, Kingdom Vapor, at: http://kingdomvapor.com/
If you live in Pennsylvania, you can contact Bob or drop in at his brick and mortar store that started it all, Smoke 4 Less, located in Clarion, PA, where they have a selection of traditional tobacco as well as a range of vape products, E-Cigs, accessories, and Juices. They have a great rating among local customers and I’m sure they would be appreciative of the support and business.
Smoke 4 Less — 226 S 5th Ave #2, Clarion, PA 16214
How to Make a Difference
Another way you can help your state not take the same route as Pennsylvania is to contact your local and state government. Go on Google, find email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, and put them to use. Continue to contact various local, state, and federal government officials representing your state and community and let them know that you oppose increasing vape / E-Cig taxes.