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Unintended costs of EU e-cigarette tax hike

The media has been rife with sensationalist articles regarding the potential dangers of e-cigarettes. But when discussing e-cigarettes, it is important to remember that they are used overwhelmingly by smokers as a means of quitting or cutting down on cigarettes. According to Action on Smoking and Health — a campaigning public health charity that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco — instances of non-smokers taking up vaping (as opposed to just trying it once) are extremely rare — at around 0.2% of vapers. So the comprehensive evidence review from Public Health England, which found that e-cigarettes were a staggering 95% less harmful than tobacco, should inform any meaningful discussion about the future of vaping. And now the Royal College of Physicians has said that there is resounding evidence that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking and aid quitting.

E-cigarettes are changing the landscape of tobacco use at rates seldom seen before. Since e-cigarettes have become well known, the number of quit smoking attempts has accelerated in both the UK and the United States. Smoking rates for men and young people are at historic lows, a statistic that makes it difficult to argue that vaping is a gateway to smoking. In 2014, 900,000 people in England used e-cigarettes to quit smoking. According to researchers from University College London, if a user opts for e-cigarettes over other cessation products, the likelihood of successfully quitting rises by 50%. One study suggested that 91% of their subjects experienced a substantial decrease in cravings when vaping. Vaping has become a lifeline for millions of individuals who are actively seeking a healthier lifestyle.

Draft legislation, which could be ready by as early as 2017, will see the price of e-cigarettes soar. EU officials have described the drop in tobacco tax revenue as “worrying”. As a result of the proposed taxes, the price of e-cigarettes will rise to reflect the increase from 20% VAT to 57% VAT. This inflated price will serve as a deterrent to those who are eagerly attempting to kick a dangerous habit. We know from experience that, to compete with tobacco, an alternative has to be not only healthier, but also cheaper.

In terms of health, this proposed tax hike represents a substantial step back, one that we, as a country, cannot afford.

Pascal Culverhouse

Managing director

The Electric Tobacconist Ltd

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201093

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