Update (May 2019): Since this post was written we have put a more in-depth analysis exploring the links between lost tobacco revenues and anti-vaping stories. It’s an astonishing story and well worth checking out!
Since the beginning of the electronic cigarette industry, smokers have warned us that governments would not allow e-cigarettes to strip them of billions of pounds of tax revenue.
I’ve always been a little sceptical – surely governments would prioritise lives over tax revenue?
After all, there seems to be a never-ending (although rarely effective) stream of laws aimed at getting people to stop using tobacco cigarettes.
And the logic behind sin taxes that grind smokers to the ground and unfairly target the poorer elements of society surely does not exist for e-cigarettes.
But a written question by an Italian MEP shows that at least some politicians are more concerned with the money they take from smokers than with smoker’s health.
I wish to put a question to the Council regarding an issue which has recently been attracting a great deal of interest, but which has never been addressed from the point of view set out below.
I am referring to ‘electronic cigarettes’, devices considered to be ‘nicotine-containing products’ which therefore fall within Article 18 of the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products (COM(2012)0788 — 2012/0366 (COD)).
The consumption of traditional cigarettes provides the Member States with sizeable revenues, as a result of the substantial taxes to which they are subject.
According to a recent report by ANSA (Italian news agency) of 21 April 2013, in the first two months of 2013 alone, Italy’s coffers registered a loss of EUR 132 million, corresponding to a fall in revenue from duty on tobacco of approximately 7.6%. Of course, this shortfall cannot be completely blamed on the increasing use of electronic cigarettes, but it is certainly partly responsible.
In light of the above, can the Council state what action it intends to take to address the differences in tax revenue materialising in State coffers following the proliferation of electronic cigarettes, which currently appear to be free from any form of duty?
Of course, this is a question from one MEP.
Suggesting a device which is helping smokers to stop using tobacco cigarettes should be banned/heavily taxed for financial reasons sounds like political suicide.
Much better to put a 0.4% limit on the nicotine and pretend it’s not a ban, and that regulations are being put in place to protect children, not penalise smokers (despite the fact that studies show children don’t use e-cigarettes!)
(Bill Cinton put up a sign in his campaign room saying: “It’s the economy, stupid!” I expect the anti-smoking movement has a “It’s the children, stupid!” sign up in their own campaign rooms.)
And don’t mention the fact that the EU has already discussed subsidising tobacco growers, or has been paid hundreds of millions of Euros by Marlboro manufacturer Altria while at the same banning vastly safer alternatives to smoking such as SNUS.
So, we have another motivation for an effective ban on ecigs. As Dick Puddlecote put it:
Legislators want the money, obsessive anti-smokers want the decades-long ego-stroking to continue (as well as the cash it affords them too, natch). And they all hate e-cigs for fucking it up.
Which could be why EU legislators are ignoring the scientists who are crying out for electronic cigarettes to be made readily available to all smokers and pushing for a ban which, if Professor John Britton of the Royal College of Physcians is right, could cost the lives of five million UK smokers.
What do you think? Is this a rogue politician, or are our governments more concerned with their tax revenue than our lives? Let me know in the comments!