The War on Vaping: Dumb, Lethal, and European Too

 

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.”

Hmmm.

Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 13 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    It’s not even possible to grant them the fig leaf of “nanny statism” any more. There is no pretense of seeking control in order to make lives better: they seek control for its own sake.

    • #1
  2. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore
    @Eeyore

    Percival:It’s not even possible to grant them the fig leaf of “nanny statism” any more.There is no pretense ofseeking control in order to make lives better: they seek control for its own sake.

    Unlike, of course, the FCC’s plan to regulate the Internet as a public utility…

    • #2
  3. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    The Euro-weenies aren’t the only ones at war with e-cigs. The usual suspects in California (progressive politicians) are in the process of placing the same bans on e-cigs that they previously placed on regular tobacco cigarettes. I anticipate we’ll see attempts to heavily regulate this product in liberal precincts across the land.

    • #3
  4. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Snus is pretty darn safe as is vaping. Getting my chewers and smokers to switch has never been easier.

    • #4
  5. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Don’t just stand there. Regulate something!

    • #5
  6. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Percival:It’s not even possible to grant them the fig leaf of “nanny statism” any more.There is no pretense ofseeking control in order to make lives better: they seek control for its own sake.

    Even worse, form their perspective, innovation pulled the rug out from under them. Vaping is the enemy precisely because it undermines the need for regulation, which is a greater sin than tobacco’s original one.

    • #6
  7. MitchellM Inactive
    MitchellM
    @MitchellMorgan

    It isn’t so much about regulation as it is about tax avoidance. Governments dependent on tobacco taxes view peoples vaping as “cheating” on their proper tax dues.

    • #7
  8. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Well, as a longtime consumer of nicotine replacement products–a really longtime consumer, I admit–I’ll add some details.

    Most consumer goods are less expensive in major US cities than Paris. But almost always, on the basic stuff, Walmart is cheaper than Monoprix. There is, however, a huge exception:

    4 mg Nicorette at Walmart, 170 pieces: $57.98. If you use as much as I do, that adds up to a budget-breaking fortune.

    4 mg Nicorette at my local pharmacy, 210 pieces: EUR 23.99 . Or USD 27.28 at today’s rates of exchange.

    Now, here’s my local vapshot: http://www.vapshop.fr/. I don’t know how the prices compare to the US, because I don’t vap, so help me out on that. How much is a standard e-cig near you?

    I’ve been amazed at the success of these places, though, because Paris has until recently been a city almost synonymous with smoking tobacco. Somehow, recently, through what may have been a thoughtful public health policy or may just be a trend, a large and visible change has happened. (I don’t have the stats, but I sure see it.) Now, everyone vaps, and it’s cool. Smoking tobacco seems really old-fashioned.

    I don’t know this for sure, but my strong suspicion (given that France has already gone down the mostly-socialized medicine route) is that France has made sure these products are cheap. That’s what you’d do if you were basically a statist, looking at tobacco as a public health problem, thinking, “Let’s bring down the costs.” I’d have to do more research to be sure, but I assume the reason Nicorette is so much cheaper here is, probably, that it’s highly subsidized–and I’ve got to say, that works. I don’t think I could afford to be a non-smoking nicotine addict in the US. I’m exactly that, of course, and very sensitive to fluctuations in the price of nicotine-replacement products.

    Now, I have a hunch that no matter what the EU decides, France will continue to keep these prices quite low–probably through some kind of accounting prestidigitation. If so, that would get us much closer to the real problem with the EU: It’s not that they make silly regulations in Brussels, it’s that once they do, the sovereign nation-states involved in this useful fiction figure out a clever way around them.

    I’ll follow this story with curiosity. I’ll go check out the prices at the vap shop and report. Meanwhile, I’d be curious to know what comparable products cost in various US cities. And let’s see what happens in Paris if the EC says, “prices must go up.”

    I’ll bet you that they won’t. Because that’s not in France’s interest. France is looking at its own budget, and it’s own health care costs, and will find some way around that–I’ll bet. But this is, I stress, a hypothesis. I offer this as a prediction, and maybe we can test it to see if I’m right. It will be interesting.

    But I don’t think we’ll get the chance, alas, because I suspect this is the key paragraph–buried at the end of the article:

    One EU insider said: “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.”

    I kind of figure–no plans at present, and it won’t be considered a priority. But should that happen, it will be interesting for me to see what happens next.

    I have a very strong interest in making accurate predictions about the price of Nicotine replacement in Paris. So far, based on what I know, I do not think the price will rise.

    • #8
  9. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Prohibition of recreational drugs follows logically from government regulation of prescription medications.

    Governments have been given the responsibility to “protect” their citizens from harmful and fraudulent pharmaceuticals, so they test all new pharmaceuticals to make sure they do what their inventors say they do, and without causing harm when used correctly under a doctor’s supervision.

    One of the big criteria that all drugs must meet under this paradigm, regardless of their potential for abuse or any demonstrable side-effects, is that they must meet a genuine medical need.

    Recreational drugs, clearly, do not meet that criteria. The only reason alcohol isn’t prohibited is because prohibition is too difficult and expensive to enforce, not because the drug regulation paradigm itself was deemed to be flawed.

    Heck, caffeine would be illegal under this paradigm if a practical way of enforcing the ban could be found.

    If one wants to get governments out of the business of persecuting recreational drug users (including users of tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, etc), then the paradigm at its root (that only drugs that meet a medical need are acceptable to regulators) must be thrown out.

    I don’t see this happening any time soon, because it would mean the legalization-without-a-prescription of lots of other medications, and there’s no way the medical establishment is eager to give up that power.

    • #9
  10. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    MitchellM:It isn’t so much about regulation as it is about tax avoidance. Governments dependent on tobacco taxes view peoples vaping as “cheating” on their proper tax dues.

    If that were the real reason, then governments would simply tax nic0tine rather than taxing tobacco.

    However, governments cannot tax nicotine without violating the prescription drug regulation paradigm I mentioned in #9, because that would mean tolerance for the recreational use of a drug (as opposed to tobacco, which is “merely” a plant rather than a drug).

    Edit: I reread the OP and see that the Europeans are considering taxing nicotine rather than tobacco. I find that very curious, as it flies in the face of international drug control treaties. Taxing nicotine means that the governments are endorsing the use of an addictive drug for non-medical purposes.

    • #10
  11. Mario the Gator Inactive
    Mario the Gator
    @Pelayo

    Why is the Left so intent on regulating the use of cigarettes or even something that looks like them, but at the same time promotes the legalization of marijuana in any form?  I cannot understand that contradiction.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Pelayo:Why is the Left so intent on regulating the use of cigarettes or even something that looks like them, but at the same time promotes the legalization of marijuana in any form? I cannot understand that contradiction.

    The Left that is so intent on regulating the use of cigarettes are highly-paid health bureaucrats (either working for government or non-governmental organizations) who have a huge financial incentive to increase their own power over the lives of others.

    The Left that wants to legalize marijuana is (generally speaking) not paid by governments and NGOs to promote that policy.

    It’s (largely) two different groups we’re talking about here. One is the Statist Left and the other is the Libertine Left.

    • #12
  13. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Pelayo:Why is the Left so intent on regulating the use of cigarettes or even something that looks like them, but at the same time promotes the legalization of marijuana in any form? I cannot understand that contradiction.

    Well, one’s much more dangerous than the other. It’s logical.

    • #13
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.