Lawmakers to consider e-cigarette tax


New numbers show e-cigarettes are more popular than traditional cigarettes among teens. That has the attention of state lawmakers. They are considering increasing the tax on e-cigs and putting more regulations on the stores that sell them.

Tony Reed owns Indigo Vapor, a new "vape" shop in downtown South Bend. He makes everything he sells.

"We make everything here, by me, so I know exactly what I am putting in here," says Reed.

Reed's store is one of many popping up around the country as the popularity of e-cigarettes grows. Supporters of the product claim it is a better alternative to cigarettes but critics say the sweet flavors and fancy packaging is attracting youth at an alarming rate.

"We just want to make sure we have some regulation and keep them out of the hands of youth," says Latorya Greene, the coordinator of Tobacco Free St. Joseph County.

Now, some Indiana lawmakers are proposing a bill that would require e-cig stores and vape shops have a license, add e-cigs to Indiana's statewide smoking ban, require packaging be child resistant and tax e-cigs like regular cigarettes.

"There is no justification for an extra tax," says Reed, "I believe the motivation is it will get kids to stop vaping. Well, there is no evidence that {more tax} will do anything except raise money for Indiana."

But anti-smoking advocates say its about health. Greene says the health risks and benefits have not been studied long term and there is not much known about how much nicotine and potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled when a person smokes e-cigarettes.

"People have the misconception that e-cigs are regulated like regular cigarettes and that is totally not the case," says Greene.

Reed believes none of the ingredients he uses are dangerous. He willingly puts labels on his products with a list of ingredients which include nicotine, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. And he includes warning labels on his packaging along with child resistant caps.

But Reed admits, not every store and manufacturer takes those extra steps willingly. Current Indiana law prohibits the sale of e-cigs to people under 18 -- but that is the only regulation stores and vape shops have to adhere to.

Still, Reed says, more regulations and tax would mean drive customers out of local stores and onto the internet.

"We've created jobs here," says Reed, "we have 6 employees and we pay them very well. And we have built a nice space, I think, in a part of South Bend that could use some nice spaces built and I hate to see a money grab by the state jeopardize that."

According to the FDA, the agency asked for more authority to regulate e-cigs but a ruling has not been issued.