Benjamin Franklin said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”
My Doctor was trying to shock me out of my smoking habit, he told me that if you are a smoker then cancer is probably one of the better ways to die. He went on to explain that with cancer you are likely to experience three or four months of intense pain…and then die. It was his view that this was far preferable to the possible alternative of spending years in bed gasping for breath, before death brought about by lung damage.
My Doctor was not a cheerful sort of fellow. He was though, an ex-smoker who held the evangelical belief of a convert that he could save my life.
I didn’t fancy the idea of a bad death, I wanted to die in my very old years riding a Harley Davidson at 100 mph. Unfortunately, despite my Doctors shock tactics and my two-wheeled demise preferences, I still continued to smoke.
Tobacco brings a great deal of money into the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer’s coffers, according to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association the Excise duty alone is now well over nine billion pounds in one year.
The fantastically high duty that smokers are subjected to on tobacco is normally justified by the reasoning that a high purchase price will dissuade use and the high revenue it raises is needed to cover the extra care and treatment costs that smokers burden the health service with.
Despite the valiant efforts of my Doctor and many others across the country to inform us of the dangers of tobacco I suspect that it is the high price of cigarettes or rolling tobacco that has done the most to reduce the percentage of the UK population that smoke.
A smoking habit of one pack of twenty cigarettes a day equates to expenditure not far off £3,000 per year. It should come as no surprise that many smokers choose to buy smuggled ‘duty free’ cigarettes despite the fact that doing so is perpetuating criminal activities.
ECigs to the Rescue
Electronic cigarettes are revolutionary, starting to vape an ecig as an alternative to smoking tobacco can be a revelation.
Ecigs allow the vaper to continue to enjoy nicotine without all of the thousands of chemicals associated with burning tobacco. Being a vaper can also save you a great deal of money providing that you are not tempted to spend that newly found spare cash on too many nice shiny new mods etc.
Vaping is a win-win. We do not pollute ourselves and others with tobacco smoke and so the government doesn’t have to add Excise duty in order to curtail our pleasure or give extra support to the NHS.
There is a potential problem with this status-quo, there is the real possibility that Parliament may decide to piss on our strawberries.
During Linda McAvan’s recent web-chat regarding the EU Tobacco Product Directive she said, in relation to ecigs “…if used to quit, they could be available on prescription if they were regulated through the MHRA – the UK medicines regulator and that if they were regulated like patches, they would have a lower VAT rate.”
Linda McAvan didn’t address the other cost implications and choice restriction effects of medically regulating ecigs, I shall not reiterate the whole issue here except to say that the many opponents of over regulating ecigs feel strongly that it would have a very negative effect of the growth and uptake of ecig usage to the detriment of the health of very many citizens.
The ‘carrot’ of lower VAT on ecigs if they are medically regulated carries the possible implication that if ecigs are not regulated then they are at risk of being treated more harshly by the Exchequer.
Back to Death and Taxes
The Spectre of increased taxes on ecigs may be seen as idle speculation and scaremongering; I do hope that it is so. However a fellow European country called Italy has decided that next year it will go ahead with an ecig consumption tax of 58.5%, according to an article on the Vape Ranks website.
The article goes on to say that “Although the measure will only come into effect in 2014, it has already caused a massive shock in the e-cigarette market, with Italy’s National Association for Electronic Smoking (ANAFE) reporting a 99% drop in requests for new business licenses in the sector, and 123 closed shops in the months of May and June alone. And it’s not just the small businesses that are feeling the devastating effects of the upcoming tax increase. Ovale, one of the world’s largest e-cigarette makers and distributors in the world, has announced a 50% drop in sales for 2013 compared to the same period of last year, and expects things to get even worse, with an estimated sales deficit of 80% in January 2014”
The proposed Italian ecig tax hike is in part attributed to the loss of income from tobacco taxes which have recently dropped by over 6% in Italy.
Short Term Governance
Part of the potential problem when considering taxation in most European countries is that the national governments have a relatively short term, their planning is most often the result of considering only the consequences that their decisions will have up until the next election.
Adding high taxation to ecigs could seem like a viable option especially if ecigs can be demonised in the eyes of the general population. The economic argument against taxing ecigs excessively is obvious, apart from lowering the potential returns by strangling the market the biggest factor is the potential savings to the NHS that can result from people stopping smoking.
The problem is that potentially, increased ecig taxation may give some short term returns that are within the term of any elected Government whereas the savings to the NHS that can be reaped by reducing the number of smokers is primarily in the future… a future that may well have a different Government in power.
Damming us to death and taxes by curtailing the ecig market in order to maintain tobacco sales and the taxes that they produce would be both immoral and short-sighted however history has shown us that Governments often feel free to pursue policies with questionable moral worth and long term costs with depressing regularity.
As vapers we must embrace our zeal as converts from tobacco smoking and be ready to strongly resist any suggestion that ecigs should be subject to medical regulation or punitive taxation. Ecigs have the potential to revolutionise the fight against sickness and death caused by smoking and they can achieve this without Government subsidy, assistance or responsibility – all that is needed is for us to be left alone, so that we can continue to save ourselves and others from the dangers of smoking.
Don’t imagine that ecigs are tax free either…we vapers pay VAT on every ecig that we purchase, we pay income tax on the money we earn to buy ecigs, ecig vendors pay tax on their profits and ecig vendor employees pay tax on their earnings too. This represents a much greater return to the Exchequer than that contributed by the thousands of packs of smuggled duty free cigarettes that account for a sizeable and growing percentage of tobacco consumption in the UK.
I do not own a Harley Davidson.
American readers should note that the word ‘fag’ is a colloquialism for ‘cigarette’ in English.
The views expressed herein are not necessarily those held by ECigWizard.