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Omaha council considers taxing vape products

Posted at 10:17 PM, Oct 14, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Owner of Caterpillar Vapes Eric Johnson is worried. Due to the rise of deaths caused by vaping in recent months, the whole vaping industry has taken a hit, even though they argue most contained THC, or were black market products.

Still, it's drastically hurt shops across the metro.

And now, on top of that, customers could be paying another three percent tax for vape products in Omaha, putting them on par with cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

"So from our perspective, the last thing we want to do is to have people associate us with a product that eventually will kill you,” says Eric Johnson, owner of Caterpillar Vapes.

It's unclear what the council will do, but two council members 3 News Now spoke with over the phone today, Brinker Harding and Aimee Melton, say they're considering it.

Melton says plenty aren't using it just to get off smoking, they just like to do it.

"It's now become something that people are using just for enjoyment and if we're going to have that, I just think it's going to be taxed fairly across the board,” says Melton.

It's currently unclear what exactly would be taxed. The vape juice definitely would be.

Possibly the vaping devices, but Melton hopes those are not included in the final bill.

"Right now we don't tax tobacco pipes, we don't tax rolling papers, those kind of things, so when you're talking about fairness, I just want to make sure it's fair,” says Melton.

Johnson worries for his customers. He says the poorest ones already struggle to pay. He's concerned that if Omaha passes this tax and the state begins to tax it too, it could send some of them to council bluffs.

"So it's not hard for them to actually go across the border, get the things they need and head back, depending how much that tax is,” says Johnson.

Even if passed, the occupation tax may not last more than a few years. Unless the council renews it, the tax is set to expire at the end of 2022. The city sends the money right to the Buffett Cancer Center.