E-cigarettes: No match for the EU?

Smokers must have the freedom to purchase less harmful products to help them off their addiction. This isn’t just a matter of choice. For many, it’s a matter of life and death

No smoke without fire?
The Commentator
On 25 February 2013 10:20

It seems if you’re a smoker, like the majority of The Commentator’s editorial team, you never stop getting shafted by the powers that be. Over the past twenty years, successive British governments have raised taxes on tobacco so much that it has doubled the revenue raised from direct taxation and Value Added Tax (sales tax) on the products.

This is against a backdrop of a decline in the smoking population in Western Europe of over 600bn sticks consumed in 2002, to just over 400bn in 2012. Shockingly, on a £7 pack of fags, the government takes over £5.50 in taxes, with just £1.50 going to the manufacturers and retailers.

If any industry could be deemed as ‘being milked’, it’s the tobacco one.

But unsatisfied with the massive decline in smoking numbers in Europe and the prevalence of new ‘electronic cigarettes’, the European Union is now setting its sights squarely on the non-tobacco variants.

E-cigarettes, as they are more commonly known, are remarkably less toxic than their tobacco-reliant counterparts. The little plastic refillables offer nicotine to the consumer, but without the damaging effects of tobacco and other ingredients of the traditional cigarette. But having the choice to wean yourself off of a 20-pack of Marlboro Reds onto something a little less harmful is apparently a luxury the Eurocrats don’t want you to have.

On December 19th 2012, the EU produced a proposal for new laws controlling tobacco and e-cigarettes. Under the new proposals, packets of both will likely have to be brazenly branded with warning signs and unsightly images. Fine if you believe this deters people from smoking (which there is scant evidence for), not so fine if you believe that smokers should be more free or indeed encouraged to take up something less harmful to wean themselves off cigarettes.

The proposed EU directive will make it harder for smokers to switch, and will also ban outright the least harmful tobacco products on the market – a product known as ‘snus’. It will treat e-cigarettes as ‘medicinal products’, causing concern over impossibly high standards and regulations leading to higher manufacturing costs. This means that e-cigarettes may no longer be able to compete in a lower, or even the same price band as cigarettes, which would likely cause smokers to think twice about adopting the healthier option.

If the nicotine content in e-cigarettes is above a certain threshold, they would not be allowed unless specifically authorised by a doctor as medicine. This is not just a battle against common sense, but an EU-sanctioned war against the free market.

The British government is seriously considering the plans, and the UK Department of Health ends its call for evidence on the matter at midday on February 28th.

If you believe, as we do, that taxes on cigarettes are too high, that the assault on smokers should stop, or even that smokers should be free to purchase less harmful products to help them off their addiction, do as we have and submit your own views on the matter, here.

This isn’t just a matter of choice and freedom. For many, it’s a matter of life and death. 

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