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Despite concerns, measure to tax vaping products the same as tobacco products moves forward

By Greg Bishop, Illinois News Network

Lawmakers plan further discussions on whether vaping products that contain nicotine should be taxed the same as other tobacco products in Illinois.

State Sen. Terry Link, D-Indian Creek, got Senate Bill 1124 got out of committee Tuesday after he said there’d be an amendment to address concerns raised by opponents.

The measure would wrap electronic cigarettes, also known as vape products, into the Tobacco Products Tax Act of 1995.

Danne Reinke, from the Smoke Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois, testified in opposition to the bill Tuesday. He said the measure would tax vaping products at 36 percent. He said consumers can use vaping products to help quit smoking cigarettes.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Revenue said: “E-cigarettes and vapor products are currently assessed the general merchandise rate of 6.25 percent.”

“Is bad public policy,” Reinke said. “[Vaping is] the leading cessation product.”

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, also had concerns about the measure.

“My biggest problem is taxing it as something it’s not,” Hutchinson said. “At its core, they’re not tobacco products. To tax them as something they’re not, it misses the opportunity. I’m not opposed to taxation, but we need to taxing it as it actually is.”

Link said he’s open to continued conversation about the issue, but said there are real concerns.

“We have an epidemic going on,” Link said. “In our schools, we’re having a total epidemic with it. We got to look at this in a different manner.”

“I’ve seen plenty of people who do stop smoking with vape products, but I also know we have a fear of the rising use among kids, so it’s complicated and I get that, but they’re not tobacco products so it’s hard for me to make that jump,” Hutchinson said.

Link said also has another bill, Senate Bill 1864, he got out of committee with the promise for amendments. That measure would add e-cigarettes and vaporizers into the Smoke Free Illinois Act, which bans smoking in places of public accommodation.