In interviews I’m often asked why, if vaping is 95% safer than smoking, there are numerous negative stories around vaping. My response is that vaping is a disruptive industry which threatens a lot more than US$700 billion in tobacco revenues and US$250 billion in tax revenues. It’s inevitable there’s likely to be opposition to vaping. But I’m always uneasy this may be interpreted as a conspiracy theory. To illustrate the scale of the problem, we chose to put some data behind the assertion.
The results are astonishing. Not just is Cheapest E Cig costing billions in tax revenue, it could force a number of the very states that have lead the charge against vaping into effective bankruptcy. Graph showing world tobacco revenue vs tax.
Vaping and Tobacco Tax in the us – We’ll begin with tobacco revenues in the USA – not because they’re insignificant in the united kingdom as well as the EU (as we’ll see, the exact opposite is the situation) but because that is certainly where the vast majority of opposition to vaping is apparently originating. At its peak during 2010 tobacco tax revenues reached 17.16 billion dollars. But that amount continues to be coming down rapidly as smokers quit or move to alternative forms of nicotine – predominantly vaping. In 2018 projected revenues were 20% lower at 13.67 billion dollars. (Source: Statista).
So, just how is vaping affecting tax revenues? In 2018 there was 34.3 million smokers in the us – and 10.8 million vapers, equal to almost 32% in the smoking population. When we divide total tax revenue by the amount of smokers, we end up having $400 per smoker. Multiply that by the amount of vapers so we obtain a total tax cost of $4.3 billion.
Obviously, those are very rough figures. Some vapers people will be dual users (both vape and smoke), so will still be contributing towards some tobacco tax revenues, and of course you will have some taxes on vaping. But however you work, vaping is certainly costing the united states government billions in lost tax revenues.
That sounds a great deal, but does look insignificant when compared to the total US tax receipts, estimated to become $3.65 trillion in 2019. But things start looking a whole lot worse when we take a look at individual US states – and also the bonds they may have issued which can be backed by tobacco revenues.
In 1997 tobacco companies consented to pay 46 states more than 200 billion dollars over twenty-five years. The concept ended up being to cover the cost of treating smoke related diseases, although in practice the money was often used on other purposes. As an example, one state decided to spend 75% of the total on tobacco production. The greatest recipient was California, which would be to receive over 12% from the total amount.
Remember that. The exact amount will not be occur stone, and one of many variants is the volume of cigarettes sold. The fewer cigarettes sold, the less money state governments receive, creating a perverse incentive to keep tobacco sales high. (Intriguingly, if the sales in the tobacco companies within the agreement fall below those of companies not inside the agreement, the states also get less money, making a second perverse incentive to stifle competition.) Crucially, while original estimates allowed for a slow decline in smoking rates, they did not allow for vaping, and vaping is not really contained in the master settlement agreement.
Tobacco Secured Bonds and Looming Bankruptcy. Rather than waiting for the tobacco money at the start, states sold bonds to investors. They promised to pay back these bonds making use of the money from tobacco settlement. As a result of guaranteed flow of money from your tobacco settlements, during the time investors considered these bonds a secure option.
But the states didn’t desire to pay any interest at the start of the bonds. Instead, they wanted to permit the interest to roll up, kicking down the actual interest payments to later down the line. In exchange, they agreed to pay uubnmg often the first amount borrowed.
Exactly how much? Well, sometimes payments are likely to be 76 times the first payment. Millions in initial advances translated into billions of dollars in interest payments. And since the repayments are really high, Moody’s estimates that 80% of the bonds are likely to default.
California is behind on its payments, while New Jersey has pledged its remaining 406 million dollars in tobacco revenue to rescue two bonds. In addition, New Jersey has already established its credit score downgraded, rendering it higher priced for your state to borrow money.
What happens if the bonds are certainly not paid back? Unfortunately, they don’t go away. Bond holders have priority over taxpayers, and states have to foot the bill – and pay additional interest because of this. And as for all of the cash raised to start with – well, for some states that’s over. David Rosseau, at the time Deputy Treasurer of New Jersey, admitted that: “We basically burned all of it in two years. It was not one of New Jersey’s better financial moves.”