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The war on ecigarettes has been a useful reminder that the anti-tobacco jihad has long since evolved to a point where it is as much (or more) about control as it is about health, even at the cost of people’s lives.
The EU, needless to say, has form in this area, banning ‘snus’ (a Swedish tobacco product, typically placed under the upper lip for a prolonged period) within its territory except in Sweden and (partly: it’s complicated, and it’s being litigated) in Denmark. Snus is certainly not 100 percent safe (what is?), but it is not carcinogenic. For actual and potential smokers to switch to snus, as they have in large numbers in Sweden and (non-EU) Norway, across the EU would save tens of thousands of lives. Too bad.
Now this (from the Financial Times):
The European Commission is considering taxing ecigarettes in the same way as their traditional cousins in a move that would drastically increase the cost of the alternative smoking product and further hinder their take up.
The commission has asked excise duty experts from across the EU to consider the “best way to achieve fiscal equal treatment” between ecigarettes — where users inhale nicotine vapour — and normal tobacco products, according to a document seen by the Financial Times.
Steep duties are currently levied on traditional cigarettes but not on ecigarettes, making the tobacco-free alternatives much cheaper. The EU demands all member countries impose a minimum of a 57 per cent excise duty on every packet of cigarettes purchased in EU. By contrast, in most EU countries ecigarettes are only subject to the value added tax, which is about 20 per cent in most member states.
Tax policy makers from across Europe met in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss whether ecigarettes should be covered by excise duty.
Price has become one of the main reasons for people switching to ecigarettes, according to Natasha Kendall, tobacco analyst at Nielsen. She said over a third of ecigarette users surveyed by Nielsen said that the lower cost was one of the main benefits of the products.
The FT being the FT, it allows an “EU insider” an escape clause:
“There are no plans at present on the commission side to tax ecigarettes, but we are prepared to look at the issue in greater detail if this were to be considered a priority by EU member states.”