If anyone thought that Democratic party “leadership” would heed the warnings of their own and sober up on their harebrained policy schemes after getting popped at the polls this week then — someone hold their beer — look no further than the self-immolating proposal House Democrats put forward yesterday. Seems they see some sort of road to success in taxing vaping products at gargantuan rates.
For just a small measure of the political lunacy of such a maneuver, consider that more than 15 million Americans use vaping products, most of them in a do-or-die effort to quit cigarettes. People I love have kicked the habit thanks to these products that the left seems to have some bizarre obsession with demonizing. Even people I don’t like have (sadly) likely saved their own lives through the responsible and recommended use of vaping devices. Vapers and their loved ones, overcome with relief over their kicking the cigarette habit, cut across every political and social demographic. They are wise to the government attacks, and they are organized. More and more, they are voting with single-issue intensity in every congressional district. (Current or would-be politician vape-haters, re-read that last sentence, please. Thanks).
A survey last year showed that 96% of vapers said they were certain to vote in the next election. Get this — 60% of all vapers said they would register to vote just so they could punish officials that are trying to restrict vaping.
How’d that turn out on election day? Well, the biggest anti-vaper in the New Jersey State Senate got his Democrat butt handed to him by a complete novice who spent less than $200 on his entire campaign. Because AMERICA! In my state of Virginia, which last year enacted one of the largest vaping taxes in the country, there was a near 25-point swing in voting outcomes across the whole state. How do you like that for motivation?
Even by its own lights, the Democratic vape tax violates all that the party has promised to voters in the last two years. Like a mantra, they have vowed not to tax anyone making less than $400K a year. Yet this tax will fall almost entirely on consumers far below that level, more than half of them low- or middle-income. (Current or would-be politician vape-haters, definitely re-read that last sentence, please. Thanks).
How do Democrats justify that prima facie betrayal? Well, just behold the words of former Obama economic advisor Jason Furman on the proposal: “The direct effect of the House bill is regressive but the indirect effects are much larger, more important and very progressive — conferring larger health gains for lower-income households.” You hear that, peasants? The millionaire Harvard faculty member is explaining that, sure, the Dems are going take your money now (it’s important!) but you’ll certainly thank them later. In health benefits. From smoking cigarettes, I guess. Genius.
Oh, and would you like another sip of the crazy? One of the Democratic ringleaders for this punishing tax is Napa Valley honcho Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who made a fortune in the wine business. He thinks Americans shouldn’t have access to flavored vaping products, never mind the fact he sells flavored alcohol and formed the Congressional Wine Caucus — more to short-circuit any attempt to tax or fool with that industry than to sip, no doubt.
The vape community on social media — and they are legion — are right now bombarding the Progressive Caucus demanding answers for how poor and minority consumers in those districts are supposed to shoulder this $50 billion monstrosity. The only alternative for most of those folks is returning to the soon-to-be much-cheaper cigarettes. Not a single member of that caucus, though famously also online, has had a syllable to say about it.
On a public health basis alone, this tax is anathema to everything Democrats claim to stand for. They are huge advocates for harm reduction in every other sphere — drugs, sex-ed, addiction, and “harm” of any and every sort. When did they start feeling the need to do the dirty work of Big Tobacco? Vaping is the single most effective cigarette smoking cessation/harm reduction method ever devised and yet, maniacally, Democrats persist in wiping out the industry. Even their nanny-state pals in the British Health Service give vaping products for free to smokers in the hospital, so bollocks to you.
Before we go, let’s quickly revisit the electoral facts here with some examples of how a mobilized vaping community has propelled Republicans to victory over Democrats in tight elections where vape taxes and regulations were up for debate. In 2016, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson was down in the polls until his campaign met with vape shop workers across the state, which mobilized vapers and secured Johnson’s victory. In 2014, vaping consumer and industry groups in New Mexico gave a last-minute boost to Republican Conrad James to help defeat state Rep. Liz Thompson (D-N.M.). Democrats risk awakening this motivated constituency against them in the next election if their vape tax isn’t snuffed out like a nasty-ass cigarette.