Vaping Tax – or Why can’t you just leave me alone?

Photo courtesy Mike Mozart, Flickr, June 15, 2015

Up until about 25 years ago when the Clinton administration paid off their supporters among the trial lawyers after the 1992 election with the fatted carcass of the tobacco industry, smoking while in a mild decline, was all but universal here in the US.

Fast forward 25 years and the big government lawsuit machine has mostly shut down acceptable smoking in public places. The payoff in real dollars went mostly to the lawyers. The power went to and was gleefully used by mostly left wing politicians at all levels of government, generally enforced by some claim that these changes were somehow “good for you.”

Over the last decade, an alternate approach to smoking has started showing up. This would be vaping, the ingestion of nicotine laced vapors via electronic cigarettes (e-cigs).

Over the last few years, the politicians, do-gooders, and those who know in their black little hearts that they can live our lives far better for us than we mere mortals are capable of doing, have started treating these new ways to enjoy oneself the way they are treating tobacco products. The prohibitionist arguments are starting to be crafted with the same sort of breathless hectoring we now endure regularly from the self-selected Tobacco Nazis.

This year, the festivities have made their way to the Alaska Legislature with a pair of bills aimed at doubling the taxes on vaping and e-cigs. One proposal came out of Governor Walker’s budget. The other came out of the legislature itself. Both are making their way through the process.

Both are bad, bad ideas, as vaping is not a problem. Rather it is a solution, one of many, to smoking.

The rules of taxation are basic. If you want less of something, you tax it. If you want more of it, you don’t tax or regulate it.

One of the unfortunate things about being Americans is that we have a kneejerk prohibitionist impulse that rears its black little head from time to time. Usually the campaign is put in stark, moral, almost religious terms. The prohibitionists are generally successful at some level taking away a little more fun or imposing their will on the lives of their neighbors. Unfortunately the prohibitionist impulse also fuels the size and intrusiveness of governments at all levels. It also fuels the rise of organized crime when a sizable portion of those neighbors tell the prohibitionists to put their new prohibition in a place where the sun does not shine.

We will not solve Alaska’s budget crisis taking vaping or e-cigs. We will grow the government a bit at the state and local levels while empowering a black market and taking another chunk of respect for the rule of law. I don’t think that is the goal, but what do I know? Kill these pieces of intrusive legislation and tell your favorite legislator to simply butt out and leave you alone with your own choices in life.