In a story that shook the UK and EU vaping community, The EU Observer reported on March 1 that the European Union intends to levy an excise tax on e-cigs and other vapor products. “EU countries are preparing to tax e-cigarettes under the same regime as normal cigarettes, in a move likely to increase prices and to prompt a fight among corporate lobbyists in Brussels,” wrote Andrew Rettman.
Ambassadors from EU member states intend to have a proposal ready by next year, and finance ministers will endorse this plan on March 8. “They also said excise duties or some ‘other specifically designed tax’ on novel tobacco items…could help meet ‘public health objectives’.”
The tax proposal was greeted by vapers and health advocates with outrage. British vapers were especially upset. Many see this as further provocation to vote on June 23 to leave the EU (known as the Brexit) — as if the coming TPD regulations weren’t already enough. They see the EU bureaucracy as being tone-deaf and deliberately ignorant about the health benefits of vaping, and the proposed tax as further insult.
“It never ceases to amaze me that there are still people who believe the EU can be reformed,” wrote libertarian Christopher Snowdon in his blog. “With the UK gearing up for a referendum on whether to continue to be ruled by this anti-democratic, meddling cesspool of corruption, it just keeps steam-rolling on. Despite the fact that the appalling ‘Tobacco’ Products Directive will come into force between now and the referendum, the EU is already plans to give vapers a further kick in the teeth.”
Public health advocate Clive Bates, in a comment on Snowdon’s blog, noted, “I think everything about the way this has been done is truly repugnant, incompetent and unaccountable.”
So Philip Morris want an ecig tax. Pharma wants an ecig tax. Who runs the EU anyway?— Lorien Jollye (@CaeruleanSea) March 1, 2016
A major fear is that the lobbying power of pharma and the tobacco industry will overwhelm any opposition from vapor products companies and vapers themselves. Tom Pruen, of the industry association ECITA, noted on Twitter that big tobacco “can and does spend more on lobbying than much of our sector turns over – no good news here for independants.”
Whatever the tax proposal contains, the fact that EU bureaucrats still think vaping is a threat to health that needs to be managed with punishing taxation will be sufficient to earn ongoing scorn. The European vaping community is unlikely to take this tax plan quietly or without a fight.