Members of the finance & bonding committee heard testimony Monday on a proposal to create new license for vendors of e-cigarettes and nicotine vaporizers, which would include a $100 fee to sign up and $500 for a license.
About 50 stores in Connecticut specialize in the sale of these products, but that figure does not include hundreds of gas stations and convenience stores that stock their shelves.
Nick Ricciardi owns three stores that specialize in the sales of vaporizers and has 10 employees whom he described as "experts" in the field.
Ricciardi said he’s not thrilled with the proposal but that he reads the news enough to see why his industry is being targeted for cash.
"I understand where it’s coming from as a Connecticut resident. The state needs money. They need to raise funds. We just want to make sure that they’re doing it on an equal playing field scale," he said.
Ricciardi doesn’t want to get grouped with tobacco products as the conversation moves forward.
"Too many people try to lump us in with tobacco. We are not tobacco. We are anti-tobacco in fact," Ricciardi said.
Supporters of the tax said vaporizers and e-cigarettes are not any healthier than traditional tobacco products. According to the American Lung Association, vaporizer fluid contains carcinogens, and there is no link between quitting smoking and using of vaporizers.
State Rep. Jeffrey Berger, who chairs the committee that decides on tax policy for the General Assembly, said he doesn’t think it’s fair to group the new products with traditional cigarettes. He said the decision to consider a tax is all about revenue and state spending.
"The stores probably don’t like the fee," said Berger, a Democrat from Waterbury.
He added that a state license will add legitimacy to an industry that doesn’t have any kind of official licensing structure.
"This is a way that the committee needs to move forward both on the revenue side and the accountability side," Berger said.