Is 21 billion pounds in tax revenues the real reason behind negative PR on electronic cigarettes?

Negative Ecig Stories Only, Please

A hand faces palm out from a cartoon character.
NO positive stories accepted!

There seems to be a rush of ecig stories at the moment.

And in the mainstream press they are also negative.

Here are some of the positive stories we have covered recently:

ECigarettes Do No Damage to the Heart
ECigarettes Carry No Risk Of Passive Smoking
Two More Studies Prove No Risk from Passive Vaping

But no mention of those in the Daily Mail.

Instead, the mainstream press are waxing lyrical about an increase in airway resistance after using an ecig.

Steve Vape  argues there’s no attempt to conduct a comparison between vaping and inhaling other substances. More to the point, an increase in airway resistance is not damage to the lungs, nor is it lung cancer.

But that doesn’t make a good story!

Twenty One Billion Reasons for Negative Spin on ECigarettes

Bags of money with Pounds currency on a white background

With the MHRA coming ever close to a decision on whether to allow e-cigarettes to continue with current, comprehensive regulation or to introduce a new regulatory system,  I’m suspicious.

So I decided to do some calculations.

According to the ThisIsMoney vice calculator, a smoker smoking 20 cigarettes a day would be contributing £2112.53 to the nation’s coffers.

Assuming around 600,000 people have switched to ecigs, that would mean a loss of £1,267,518,000 a year (£24 million a week) in tax income.

That’s a lot of money. But it dwarfed by the money still paid by smokers.

The most recent statistics show that there are 10 million smokers in the UK. Assuming that is still correct, that means smokers are contributing £21,125,300,000 in taxes.

Of course, this is based on a rough estimate of smokers and some very broad assumptions. There might be a small rise in receipts from 20% VAT levied on e-cigarettes, and it will take time for the majority of smokers to switch.

None of which changes that the numbers we are talking about are huge.

But if the government admits e-cigs are healthier, as their Nudge unit has done, it will be hard pressed to justify applying similar charges to e-cigarettes.

So the only option if they wanted to keep 21 billion pounds in tax revenue is to spin news about e-cigarettes to make them appear harmful.

(That’s the UK only – worldwide vaping threatens over 250 billion dollars in tax revenues.)

Which is what appears to be happening!

24 thoughts on “Is 21 billion pounds in tax revenues the real reason behind negative PR on electronic cigarettes?

  1. Yesterday I read a prediction that the government aims to have no smokers in the UK by 2032.
    In the USA a large tobacco company has bought an ecigarette company.
    In NZ ecigarettes are banned because they get in the way of ‘denormalising smokers’.
    I see a conflict of interests.
    If everybody stopped smoking then the government here would lose billions. Possibly one of the reasons for most of the cost of analogs being tax is that there are far less smokers than in the past. So the government would have to find another way of raising all that money if nobody smoked.
    I also see many vapers taking the same attitude as the ex-smokers who are active in anti-smoking groups. By using exactly the same terms to describe smokers as the anti-smoking groups they are probably strengthening the argument against vapers. We know that vaping is not smoking but the majority don’t know the difference. So vaping is lumped in with smoking and gets the same bad press. How dare people quit but still enjoy a ‘smoking’ experience! Quitting requires a lot of willpower, often resisting the lure for the rest of your life, it slows your metabolism so you get fat and your appetite increases so you get fatter, you eat sweets because of the desire to have something in your mouth so your teeth rot, and if smoking isn’t seen as something almost impossible to quit without many attempts, money spent on pharmacueticals, or the agony of cold turkey, then those who did it that way feel cheated.
    Personally I place non-smokers in two groups. The first has never smoked but did not grow up with overwhelming anti-smoking propaganda. They often don’t like people smoking in their homes but have nothing against smokers. The other group are all ex-smokers and most of them appear to hate smokers and smoking, and extend that to vaping. I believe that vapers harm the cause of vaping by calling smokers smelly, dirty, stinking, having rotten teeth, wrinkled skin and all the other anti-smoking propaganda. I smoked for 50 years, I’m in my 60s but I don’t have rotten teeth or wrinkled skin. I don’t think I smelt of smoke because non-smokers I worked with were amazed when they saw me light a cigarette, they thought I didn’t smoke. If I stunk of smoke they’d have smelt it. But my home did smell and I’m really pleased that thanks to vaping it doesn’t any more. I’ve also saved a lot of money.
    I’m one of those people who can’t quit using traditional methods. The first time I lasted 5 days cold turkey, the last time I cut down to 10 one day using a patch. I have no idea how many times I’ve tried to quit, I’ve lost count.
    But if ecigarettes are banned or cost a lot more I’ll go back to my 40 a day plus of analogs. If they were banned I’d buy them on the black market. Of course although banning tobacco is very unlikely, if it was banned criminal gangs would make a killing.
    I don’t mind paying a little extra for my eliquid if it was made in the UK and certified, but that’s as far as I’d go.
    Maybe the attack on vaping is because it’s becoming more popular? One friend hasn’t touched an analog for 3 months, another smokes 2 a day and vapes most of the time, and when I’m vaping in public smokers often ask if the can try my ecig, many like it. In fact I wish I had disposable covers to make it hygenic to let strangers have a go.

  2. That could be very close to the truth.

    I’ve always laughed at the regular news stories in the media that say smoking related illnesses cost the UK economy so many billions of pounds each year.

    Never are we given proof of how these figures were arrived at i.e. shown the calculations, or told if these figures include the revenue the government makes through taxing the sale of tobacco.

    It’s the usual suspects at it again, the media and the government, neither of whom I personally trust or believe.

    I’d say your story is certainly a very credible take on what’s probably going on here behind the scenes.

  3. I’m actually beginning to wonder just how many new black markets our governing “betters” are keen to create. Organised criminals are already doing very nicely out of supplying those who can no longer afford ‘legitimate’ tobacco products with smuggled or counterfeited ones.

    Just exactly WHAT do they think will happen if they either ban or start excessively taxing e-cigs? I have this odd little picture of Mr Big crime bosses rubbing their hands together with glee at the thought…

  4. Unfortunately the vaper community is being hit by the same sort of “perfect storm” the smoking community’s been suffering from for over 20 years: different groups of people, with different motivations, all working loosely together even when they’re not trying to, and with a helluva lot of money behind some of them.

    Read to see the sorts of people who suffer from “AntiSmokers Dysfunction Syndrome” and then think about how the SAME types and motivations are at work against e-cigs. Yes, you’re correct in your article when you point out the huge monetary motivation (which actually is much worse for you than for smokers — since the government and the Antis get LESS money when they succeed in stopping smokers!) but you also have the Neurotics (who worry about secondhand airway resistance), the Moralists/Controllers (who just like stopping other people from having fun), the Idealists (who worry about little children becoming lifelong desperate addicts), and yes, even your own version of the Greedy: the Big Pharma folks who are ticked to high heaven that THEY didn’t get control of the e-cig market!

    Unfortunately I think you’re wrong about the gvt having a hard time overtaxing e-cigs. They’ll make stuff up and they’ve always got the children/addiction card to play: Remember… in the smoking area they’re now defining anyone between 18 and 25 as a “vulnerable young adult” who needs protection.

    Fight them every single inch of the way. They will NEVER be satisfied with any compromise: anything you give them will simply be used as a new base of power to fight from.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  5. Anna, I understand what you are saying about some vapers becoming anti-smokers. I think this is to some extent inevitable (converts being the being worst extremists, ex-smokers not excluded).

    But that doesn’t apply to all vapers, and getting educated about vaping has also lead to many vapers getting educated about the issues behind smoking.

    I think you’ll find that many vapers that campaign against anti-ecig legislation are well informed and oppose discrimination against smokers as well as the worryingly Orwellian policy of de-normalisation.

  6. Hi Michael, point taken, I understand there are people against ecigs on a point of principle (it looks like smoking), and others because of its threats to pharmaceutical profits – this one simply points that the government also have a reason to ban the e-cigarette.

  7. Hi Graham, as I understand it smoking taxes pay the cost of smoking diseases several times over. And in any case, old age diseases take longer and are more expensive to treat, so for the government it is cheaper for someone to die quickly of a quick smoking disease than it is for someone to die later and more slowly of an old age disease.

  8. Tetsab, I am pretty sure that ecigs are here to stay – people are to into it to give them up now, and when there’s a demand someone will supply it whether it’s illegal or not.

  9. James is correct about the taxes/costs on smoking. See:

    The Antivapers will lie in much the same way that the Antismokers have always done: they’ll take tiny germs of truth (e.g. this airway resistance thing) and then try to expand them into something ridiculous (e.g. that “secondhand vaping will hurt people’s lungs). I believe that one of the most effective ways you’ll find to fight them is to pick out the most blatant and ridiculous of their lies and just keep hitting on those over and over and over. People tend to automatically believe “the authorities” but if you can show them even a few particular instances that are simple and clear enough that an ordinary layperson, without expending very much effort at all, can look at what you present and say, “By Golly! They ARE lying about that, aren’t they?”

    And once somebody’s made that jump… then they’re open to realizing that all the other stuff is also largely lies. I spent roughly 100 pages in “Brains” examining two areas: “Language” and “Fallacies” — and both will be VERY important in fighting the Antivapers!

    – MJM

  10. I am scared one day e cigs will be unavailable anywhere! I havent smoked for a year yet without e cigs i think i would go straight back on to smoking! Do you think this could ever happen?

  11. Anna – I’m with you if they ever ban e-cigarettes. I was guilty of using ANTZ lies to promote vaping vs. smoking in the early days – my only excuse being that, at the time, I had no idea they were lies. My…how far I’ve come.

    I was shocked to discover that much (if not all) of the “scientific evidence” I have read, linking tobacco and smoking to any diseases and/or deaths, is no better than what they have come up with against e-cigarettes, IMO. Now that I have become better educated on the severe lack of any real science behind the war on smokers/tobacco, I make every effort now to try to debunk ANTZ lies about e-cigs without using the generally-accepted smoking “facts” as a defense. This may surprise some people, but e-cigarettes, for me, are now just another alternative product – no better, no worse. I advocate for them because I don’t want to see the same thing done to vapers and smokeless users as was done to smokers. As science finds the real causes to diseases and eliminates smoking/tobacco as the “cause” (ie. HPV in cervical & oral cancer) maybe smokers will be better able to fight the discrimination and unfair taxes.

    I wonder why the tobacco companies just don’t offer a huge reward (like $20 million US) to any respected researcher who can produce conclusive, indisputable proof that tobacco causes all (or any) of the diseases and deaths that the ANTZ claim. Such a reward would probably never be collected and that would make a HUGE point, because all they have come up with so far is questionable statistics and possible links as a “possible contributing factor.”

  12. James, the problem is that the opposition tends to have the ability, through their finances, to hog the public microphone. Here on the internet however we’ve got far more of a level playing field. The Vapers have an inherent advantage today though: you know how the Antivapers will operate because you’ve seen them do it to smokers, and you’ve seen how the bogus science can be attacked. Twenty years ago when the Antismokers were gearing up we had no experience to stand on and we were going up against huge, well-funded organizations that held huge planning conferences all over the world. Today the VAPERS have organizations AND a good grounding in the science to use in the fight!


  13. Thanks, Adam. The media are funny – for example, we’ve been told by our media agency that the media will never put out story which shows smokers in a positive light.

  14. I can’t see it happening, Linda, there would just be too much opposition, and we belong to an organisation of traders (ECITA) which is prepared to fight any ban in court. What you might see is a restriction in choice as the government introduces expensive licensing which makes it more difficult to sell electronic cigarettes, or companies moving offshore to get around the licensing.

  15. Kristin – I am in the same boat as you. I wasn’t actually campaigning against smoking, but I just assumed everything the antz said was true because I had no reason to believe otherwise. It was only when I started writing this blog and reading books and blogs on the subject that I began to realise that some of what the antz is just not proven. I don’t agree that smoking isn’t harmful, but I find the evidence for passive smoking to be very unconvincing, and the third hand smoke theory to be ridiculous.

  16. Ok, look at it from another angle.
    All these anti smokers who are against smoking cigaretts, e type or not, that are vigorously excercising every day, jogging, running, playing squash, football, rugby and such like.
    They buy their kit, trainers, boots and etc, but there is no way each of these people who are doing the things that THEY want to do as opposed to us wanting a ciggy and trying every thing in the book to stop us, paying over the £2000 in taxes that us smokers do!
    However, how many of them incurr injuries that require NHS money spent on them for ruptured eyes from a squash ball, new hips and knees that have been worn out from “keeping fit” broken bones and head injuries, and various other SPORT related injuries.
    Does the amount of tax that these keep fitters pay cover the NHS treatment costs?
    Or is the tax generated from us smokers topping up these costs?
    It would be interesting to get a government appointed independant body to do a full scale research on how much NHS money is spent on smoking, drinking and sport related costs, along with a true account of exactly how much money these habbits (yes to some, sport is a habbit)bring into the chancellors coffers each year, then if its found that sports related injuries cost more than the tax income, then penalise sports items like tobbacco and alcohol are penalised.
    Failing that, lets all give up smoking and drinking for 1 month, the country will be on the verge of bankrupsy, and income tax will have to rise to cover the debt, then hear the anti smoking and drinking brigade complain!!!!!
    R N.

    1. Hi Bob, Apologies, I missed your comment until now.

      “It would be interesting to get a government appointed independant body to do a full scale research on how much NHS money is spent on smoking, drinking and sport related costs, along with a true account of exactly how much money these habbits (yes to some, sport is a habbit)bring into the chancellors coffers each year, then if its found that sports related injuries cost more than the tax income, then penalise sports items like tobbacco and alcohol are penalised.”

      Interesting, but it’s not going to happen as it doesn’t fit the anti-smoking ideology of the government. We work with a pr agency, and they tell us that even newspapers will only accept stories about smoking or smokers if betrays them in a negative light.

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  18. In answer to previous statements or questions:

    – The cost to the NHS of treating smokers was given in a recent year as £3bn.

    – The government is a 90% stakeholder in cigarette sales by virtue of tax revenue plus savings.

    – The government’s total gains, minus costs, from tobacco sales for a recent year is roughly £19bn.

    – Tobacco sales revenue and tax revenue are not agreed figures for any year as the statistics from different sources do not agree. However, the figures are roughly similar, and differ by no more than 15%.

    – As an example, in a recent year, an average set of statistics gave the following results: total tobacco sales revenue =£14bn, tax = £12bn, the tobacco industry earned £2bn, the pharmaceutical industry earned £2.1bn as a direct result of smoking (i.e. slightly more than the tobacco industry), government spent £3bn on NHS treatment of sick smokers, government saved about £10bn on pensions and social support for older smokers who had died early (this figure is pure guesswork and could easily be higher). Therefore gov. earned ~£19bn from smoking.

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