In interviews I’m often asked why, if vaping is 95% safer than smoking, there are plenty of negative stories around vaping. My response is that vaping is a disruptive industry which threatens 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 might 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 Ecigs costing billions in tax revenue, it might force a number of the very states who have lead the charge against vaping into effective bankruptcy. Graph showing world tobacco revenue vs tax.
Vaping and Tobacco Tax in the USA – We’ll start with tobacco revenues in the us – not because they’re insignificant throughout the uk and 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 in 2010 tobacco tax revenues reached 17.16 billion dollars. But that amount has become coming down rapidly as smokers quit or change to alternative forms of nicotine – predominantly vaping. In 2018 projected revenues were 20% lower at 13.67 billion dollars. (Source: Statista).
So how is vaping affecting tax revenues? In 2018 there was 34.3 million smokers in the united states – and 10.8 million vapers, comparable to almost 32% from the smoking population. If we divide total tax revenue by the quantity of smokers, we end up with $400 per smoker. Multiply that by the quantity of vapers and we get a total tax price of $4.3 billion.
Obviously, those are extremely rough figures. Some vapers men and women will be dual users (both vape and smoke), so will still be contributing towards some tobacco tax revenues, not to mention you will have some taxes on vaping. But nevertheless you work, vaping is undoubtedly costing the united states government billions in lost tax revenues.
That sounds a great deal, but does look insignificant in comparison to the total US tax receipts, estimated to become $3.65 trillion in 2019. But things start to look a lot worse once we examine individual US states – and also the bonds they have got issued that are backed by tobacco revenues.
In 1997 tobacco companies consented to pay 46 states more than 200 billion dollars over twenty-five years. The idea ended up being to cover the expense of treating smoke related diseases, although in practice the money was often invested in other purposes. For instance, one state made a decision to spend 75% from the total on tobacco production. The largest recipient was California, which would be to receive over 12% from the total amount.
Understand that. The total amount is not set in stone, and one of the variants is the quantity of cigarettes sold. The fewer cigarettes sold, the less cash state governments receive, making a perverse incentive to keep tobacco sales high. (Intriguingly, in the event the sales in the tobacco companies in the agreement fall below that relating to companies not inside the agreement, the states get less money, making a second perverse incentive to stifle competition.) Crucially, while original estimates allowed for a slow decline in smoking rates, they failed to permit vaping, and vaping is not really contained in the master settlement agreement.
Tobacco Secured Bonds and Looming Bankruptcy. Instead of waiting for the tobacco money in advance, states sold bonds to investors. They promised to repay these bonds making use of the money from tobacco settlement. As a result of guaranteed flow of income from your tobacco settlements, during the time investors considered these bonds a secure option.
Nevertheless the states didn’t wish to pay any interest at the outset of the bonds. Instead, they wanted to allow the interest to roll-up, kicking on the actual interest payments to later down the line. In exchange, they consented to pay uubnmg many times the initial amount borrowed.
Just how much? Well, in some cases payments are likely to be 76 times the primary payment. Millions in initial advances translated into billions of dollars in interest payments. And because the repayments are so high, Moody’s estimates that 80% in the bonds will likely 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 had its credit score downgraded, rendering it higher priced for the state to borrow money.
What happens when the bonds usually are not paid back? Unfortunately, they don’t vanish entirely. Bond holders have priority over taxpayers, and states have to foot the bill – and pay additional interest as a result. So when for the cash raised in the first place – well, for some states that’s gone. David Rosseau, at that time Deputy Treasurer of New Jersey, admitted that: “We basically burned all of it in two years. It had been not one of New Jersey’s better financial moves.”