Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott is proposing a tax on electronic cigarettes as a way to discourage smoking and boost revenue as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate the city’s economy.
He introduced a bill Monday night to establish a 30% excise tax on the distribution of electronic smoking devices, including e-cigarettes, e-hookahs and vape pens.
“We have to be sure we are treating these kinds of devices like we treat regular cigarettes,” said Scott, who is the Democratic nominee for mayor.
Scott said it’s essential to look for new revenue streams. The pandemic has hammered Baltimore’s economy, forcing the city to withdraw up to $25 million from its Rainy Day Fund.
The finance department will perform an analysis to determine how much the tax could bring in.
The council’s taxation and finance committee, chaired by Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, will consider the bill.
Montgomery County became one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to impose such a tax in 2015. State legislators also are considering taking steps to tax e-cigarettes and other smoking devices.
Democratic City Councilman Leon Pinkett, who served on a state task force devoted to curbing electronic smoking, said he’s encouraged the city could have another tool to discourage such devices.
“The most important thing for me, from day one, has been keeping vaping products out of the hands of young people,” he said.
Scott said it’s important to build on previous work to regulate these devices.
“If we can’t ban them,” he said, “we can tax them.”
The idea was sharply criticized by the leader of the American Vaping Association, which advocates vaping products help smokers quit.
“There is no justification for a new excise tax on a product that is helping smokers across Baltimore and the rest of Maryland get off of deadly, combustible cigarettes,” said the group’s president, Gregory Conley.