House Bill 588 — Electronic smoking devices

Parrish Miller 2020 House bill ratings Leave a Comment

Bill description: HB 588 creates a new government program, a new fund, and new taxes, all to shame and cajole people who wish to vape.

Rating: -7

Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it eliminate or curtail the size or scope of government?

HB 588 creates new activities, called “educational programs,” in each public health district, to denigrate the consumer choice to use electronic smoking devices. Among other demands, these programs are to emphasize the supposed “health, addiction, and environmental effects of the use of electronic smoking devices.”

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HB 588 creates a new fund in the state treasury known as the “electronic smoking device education fund,” which is intended to bankroll this initiative. 

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Does it give government any new, additional, or expanded power to prohibit, restrict, or regulate activities in the free market? Conversely, does it eliminate or reduce government intervention in the market?

HB 588 expands the definition of “tobacco products” found in Section 63-2551, Idaho Code to include “liquids with any amount of nicotine for use in electronic smoking devices.” In addition to granting the state more regulatory power, this expanded definition has another flaw: It is technically incorrect. At most, nicotine is a chemical that may be derived from tobacco, but it can be created synthetically as well. A product does not become tobacco merely because it has nicotine.

It should also be noted that traditional smoking cessation products (such as patches or gum) also contain nicotine, but they are not classified as tobacco products. While vaping is widely used as an aid by those seeking to quit smoking, it is being singled out for increased regulation through this bill. 

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HB 588 changes and expands the definition of “contraband articles,” which refers to untaxed cigarettes; and to “contraband goods,” which includes “any tobacco products” as defined in Section 63-2551, Idaho Code. This expansion adds not only “liquids with any amount of nicotine for use in electronic smoking devices” but also “cigars, cheroots, stogies, smoking tobacco (including granulated, plug, cut, crimp-cut, ready-rubbed and any other kinds and forms of tobacco suitable for smoking in a pipe or cigarette), chewing tobacco (including Cavendish, twist, plug, scrap and any other kinds and forms of tobacco suitable for chewing) and snuff, however prepared.”

Any of these products that are “held by, owned by, possessed by, or in control of any person” may be seized by the state if the taxes imposed have not been paid. 

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Does it directly or indirectly create or increase any taxes, fees, or other assessments? Conversely, does it eliminate or reduce any taxes, fees, or other assessments?

By defining liquid nicotine as a tobacco product, HB 588 subjects this product to a number of onerous and confiscatory taxes, which are designed both to generate additional revenue for the state and to alter consumer behavior based on the preferences of state officials. 

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Does it increase government spending (for objectionable purposes) or debt? Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt?

HB 588 directs the revenue generated from the taxes newly imposed on liquid nicotine to be distributed to the “electronic smoking device education fund” to bankroll the initiative to shame and cajole people who wish to vape.

Any remaining funds are to be used for “existing health care programs currently funded by the general fund, subject to appropriation.”

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Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?

HB 588 amends Section 63-2554, Idaho Code to say that a tobacco vendor who sells tobacco under a revoked or suspended permit will be assessed civil penalties of up to $100 per day. There is no cap on how many daily penalties can accrue. 

Additionally, the bill allows the State Tax Commission to “revoke the permit of a person not actively engaged in activities requiring a permit under this chapter.” It goes on to say that, if a vendor doesn’t sell any tobacco products for 12 consecutive months, the vendor’s permit “shall expire automatically.”

Taken together, it appears that this language is intended to increase the number of vendors whose permits are revoked or allowed to expire, and then to assess penalties against them. 

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