A proposed tax could help replace funds depleted by the recent round of statewide budget cuts. Rep. Darryl Rouson—D-St. Petersburg is pushing for a 25 percent tax increase on certain smoking pipes and devices through House Bill HB 187, Retail Sales of Smoking Pipes and Smoking Devices.
The senate unanimously passed the bill; however, it still has to go through three more house committee. Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville is also behind Rouson on getting the bong tax increase approved.
Rouson, a former substance abuser, said the increase would help create revenue, which would go toward recovery initiatives.
“Some of those revenues will also go toward substance treatment program,” Rouson said.
The pipe community expressed great displeasure about the increase. They claimed it wouldn’t be fair to them.
“We’re obviously against it,” said Diane Portell, supervisor of the Smoke Shop, located in Naples.
“It would have a negative impact on our business.” Portell added. “People don’t have money and they can’t afford any tax increase.”
A number of pipes stand to be affected if the Florida Legislature approves the bill.
The 25 percent surtax will be applied on the sales of metal, wooden, glass, acrylic, plastic and ceramics pipes. Water pipes, carburetion tubes and devices, bongs and ice pipes all stand to see the same increase.
These pipes are said to be associated with illegal substances.
Manny Busciglio, manager for Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco Shop in Tampa, said the government doesn’t realize people who smoke pipes are mostly poor people.
“Our consumers are going get hurt by it,” Busciglio said. “In turn, so will we.”
The biggest suppliers of smoking pipes and devices are found online.
The bong, glass smokers’ community argued that police officers couldn’t prove they are being used for that purpose. They are seen as drug paraphernalia.
Many local Florida stores that carry such accessories did not want to comment on whether or not their customers use the pipes for drug purposes.
Rouson added the increase would benefit the state.