Will the most vape-sympathetic country in the world put a “sin tax” on the very products it encourages smokers to adopt? It seems possible.
A British newspaper is reporting that the U.K. government is considering a tax on vapor products to pay for supplemental funding for the National Health Service (NHS). The Sun says that sources inside the government are telling the paper that the next budget will include increases in excise (or “sin”) taxes.
The paper estimates that a five percent tax on e-cigarettes and related products could bring in £40 million (equivalent to about $52 million) in revenue. According to the story, vapers spend on average £275 a year on e-liquid. Five percent of that is just under £14
As in the U.S., almost all of Britain’s 2.9 million vapers are ex-smokers or current smokers who have reduced their cigarette consumption — which means cigarette tax revenue has declined as vaping as gained in popularity. Between 2012 and 2016, the U.K. smoking rate dropped almost 23 percent — from 20.4 to just 15.8 percent.
The U.K. has led the way promoting vaping as an alternative to cigarettes. The first major review of e-cigarette science from Public Health England — “E-cigarettes: an evidence update” — created a firestorm among the resolutely anti-vaping public health establishments around the world.
Less than a year later, when the Royal College of Physicians released a report with similar conclusions, the U.K.’s reputation was cemented as the only country that encourages vaping. The overwhelming consensus among British academics, health groups, and government officials is that vaping should be promoted to smokers.
The New Nicotine Alliance issued a statement today condemning the tax proposal. “The UK has spent decades trying to convince smokers to quit and devices that can deliver the nicotine they enjoy without the harm of combustible tobacco are a perfect solution for huge numbers of people,” said chair Sarah Jakes. “Vaping has been the catalyst for a dramatic decline in smoking prevalence in recent years. It is, therefore, highly unethical for government to then financially punish vapers, especially since public health campaigns like Stoptober actively encourage the use of e-cigarettes.”