The EU set to cause the price of e-cigarettes to soar under plans to tax them at the rates as regular tobacco, raising fears that thousands of smokers will be denied a cheap way to quit.
Ambassadors for all 28 EU member states have quietly told the European Commission to come up with plans by the end of next year to reclassify e-cigarettes as regular tobacco products for tax purposes.
At present, taxes must make up at least 57 per cent of the retail price of a pack of cigarettes. VAT makes up another 20 per cent, taking the total burden to 77 per cent. However, e-cigarettes are only subject to the 20 per cent VAT, making them considerably cheaper.
Many smokers have turned to vaping, saying their spending has halved, but the EU’s plans could wipe out this saving.
According to the Times, Deborah Arnott, of the anti-smoking group ASH, said: “If the EU were to require states to tax electronic cigarettes like tobacco products it would be detrimental to public health. It would discourage smokers from switching.”
Just yesterday, a report was published suggesting about 20,000 “vapers” gave up smoking 2014 who would not otherwise have quit. This is the same number as all other anti-smoking methods combined.
Public Health England also estimates that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than traditional cigarettes and has even urged the National Health Service (NHS) to recommend them to smokers.
Ambassadors claim the latest EU move is needed to “reduce legal uncertainty, hamper substitution by borderline products and avoid possible different approaches in member states”.
Breitbart London reported last year on plans by the Welsh government to ban smoking e-cigarettes in enclosed spaces after the Welsh health minister called them a “gateway” to tobacco that risked “renormalising smoking”.
However, Professor Robert West of University College London told Breitbart London there was no evidence e-cigarettes had this effect.
“I completely understand [the Welsh health minister’s] moral position when it comes to smoking but in my opinion he, and the Welsh government, are being misled by a barrage of anti e-cigarette propagandists.
“Here in England we have published survey results that show there is not a skerrick of evidence to support the argument that e-cigarettes encourage smoking. I would still argue that the opposite is the case; the benefits far outweigh the perceived negatives.”