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Philadelphia Councilwoman proposes tax on e-cigarettes

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a bill Thursday that would tax e-cigarette merchandise in another attempt to help the cash-strapped school district pay its bills.

reynolds brown wants to ban cash for cell phone machines Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.
Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro

And the hits keep on coming.

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a bill Thursday that would tax e-cigarette merchandise in another attempt to help the cash-strapped school district pay its bills.

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After a long, drawn-out fight, city officials convinced state lawmakers to enact a $2-per-pack city tax on cigarettes, which went into effect Oct. 1, to help cover the school district's deficits. Since the state doesn't already tax e-cigs, which are battery-powered devices that burn both nicotine and non-nicotine-based liquids, city lawmakers are allowed to levy its own tax.

A $2 tax would be added onto the purchase of the actual device — including vape pens, e-cigars and e-hookahs — while the liquid would be taxed at 50 cents per milliliter and max out at $5 per purchase.

"Already, Minnesota has collected $5 million with the enactment of their e-cigarette bill," Reynolds Brown said Thursday. "What I've learned is that the use of e-cigarettes has gone up about 8 percent since 2008 with the expectation that it will grow exponentially. ... and every idea that offers new and recurring dollars should be on the table."

Mike Radionobsky, owner of Vapor Funky Monkey in Manayunk, said if enacted, he would be "moving out of Philadelphia, opening up a store in Bucks (County) or somewhere surrounding."

"I think in the long run Philadelphia is going to shoot themselves in the foot," he said.

Reynolds Brown said that if successful, Philadelphia would be the first municipality to enact a tax on e-cigs. "And if it collects $1 million, we know that puts 10 more nurses back in our schools."

"So," she added, "it's worth the debate."

The bill will now make its way through the finance committee.

To pass, it will require both City Council and School Reform Commission approval, and Mayor Michael Nutter's signature.

If all standards are met, if would go into effect July 1, 2015.

Follow Tommy Rowan on Twitter: @tommyrowan

 
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