TUPELO • A Northeast Mississippi lawmaker’s bill attempting to curtail electronic cigarette use among minors passed the Mississippi House of Representatives by a wide margin on Tuesday, but the bill will likely be tweaked in the future.
State Rep. Nick Bain, a Republican from Corinth, filed House Bill 1407, which would raise the state’s minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 and group alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, with other forms of smokeless tobacco so that vaping products can be taxed.
“It’s going to make your retailers and the people who sell (vaping products) licensed and regulated by the Department of Revenue,” Bain said of the bill. “This bill and what came of it – a lot of it came out of a hearing that we had back in the first part of the session.”
Much of the bill would simply conform state law to federal regulations, as amended by the Food and Drug Administration in December 2019.
Bain told the House the purpose for bringing alternative nicotine products under the same code section in the law as other forms of smokeless tobacco was to tax them the same way as other forms of tobacco.
“We currently do not tax vaping products,” Bain said. “We tax them in accordance with just sales tax. We’re moving this under tobacco, so it would be taxed as other smokeless tobacco would be taxed.”
According to the Department of Revenue, the state’s sales tax rate is currently at 7 percent and the state’s excise tax on tobacco is 15 percent.
The bill would also enact penalties for retailers who are charged and convicted of selling tobacco and nicotine alternative products to people under 21 and enact penalties for people under 21 who are accused and convicted of violating a state law and convicted of possessing tobacco or an alternative nicotine product.
The bill contains a reverse repealer, which stops the bill from becoming law in its current form, and Bain acknowledged some revisions are anticipated.
“The taxing mechanism, we need to work on that some more,” Bain said. “We also need to work on the definition to make sure we’re taxing vaping and not something that we don’t want to tax.”
State Reps. Price Wallace, John Faulkner, Karl Gibbs and Kabir Karriem are co-authors of the legislation, and it was previously passed by the Ways and Means and Judiciary B Committee. The bill will now be transmitted to the Mississippi Senate. Lawmakers have until March 31 to pass bills that have originated from the other legislative chamber.