From The Anniston Star by Zach Tyler
While the debate over whether electronic cigarettes are a safer option for smokers is far from over, one thing is certain: “vaping” with e-cigarettes is cheaper than smoking conventional cigarettes.
How much longer it will be cheaper than cigarettes could depend on whether Alabama’s lawmakers decide to levy excise taxes on the tobacco alternative. And lawmakers’ decisions on taxing such products may be based on their health effects. Those health effects, however, are largely unknown so far.
Tonja Bentley, owner of Alabama Vapor on Bynum Boulevard in Eastaboga, said her products are much cheaper than smoking combustible cigarettes. Her store was the first to open in the Oxford area.
She said a smoker looking to switch can get started with a basic kit from her for around what they’d pay for a carton of cigarettes. After the initial cost of buying an e-cigarette device, users can vape — a word derived from “vapor” — for $6.25 per week, she said.
Marty Rollins, a regular customer at Alabama Vapor, said his e-cigarette saves him almost $300 a month — money that he used to burn on packs of cigarettes.
Rollins smoked for 25 years before deciding to try an e-cigarette two years ago. He and his wife each smoked two packs a day; now, Rollins can’t remember the last time he lit up. He spends $20 a month on “e-juice,” the mixture of organic compounds, food-grade flavorings and nicotine used in e-cigs.
Anniston resident Barry Bowerman said he’ll never go back to traditional cigarettes. He smoked a carton a week until his son introduced him to e-cigarettes. Now, he said, he’s saving $30 each week compared to what he used to spend on cigarettes.
But how much longer Rollins, Bowerman and other e-cigarette users will be saving money by vaporizing e-juice could depend on how Alabama decides to tax the new product.
Alabama Vapor’s Bentley says that right now, her customers only pay sales tax — 10 percent in Oxford — on electronic cigarettes and liquids.
Asked if she expects an extra tax on electronic cigarette products, Bentley said “I see it coming, most definitely, though I hope not any time soon. We’ll deal with it when it comes, hopefully without increasing prices drastically.”