WHAT IS DISCUSSED IN THIS ARTICLE
Earlier this week, a draft European Commission document was leaked into public view, which unveiled Brussels plan to lower smoking rates by increasing the minimum excise tax on cigarettes by 100% as well as introducing higher tax rates on vaping devices depending on the power of them.
The concerning factor of this is that it is being considered to be rolled out across the European Union and all countries involved due to the power that Brussels hold within the committee. Whilst Great Britain is not a part of the European Union anymore, we won’t automatically be affected by these changes, but this does not necessarily mean that we won’t follow suit by taking advice from neighbouring countries. Let’s take a look at this in more detail.
The leaked document from Brussels
As I mentioned above, a draft of a European Commission document was leaked online for public viewing which revealed Brussels plans to increase the excise tax on cigarettes. This was proposed to try and decrease the volume of smokers within the country. Brussels have also put forward this applies to the whole of the European Union and would affect all countries that are part of the EU specifically those countries that offer cigarettes at very low prices. For example, countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland sell cigarettes at £1.50 a pack of 20, and with the introduction of higher tax rates would see the price double to £3 a pack, an increase of 100%
The reasons that Brussels gave for this stark increase is that it’s an acceleration for the EU to become a tobacco free generation by the year 2040. They also hope that this increase will deter young people from beginning to smoke as the prices will not be as cheap nor attractive to which they currently are. But increasing tax on cigarettes wasn’t the only thing that this document suggested, they also suggested a higher tax rate on vaping devices which I will now look at.
A higher tax rate on vaping devices suggested also
Moving on from the proposed tax rates on cigarettes, the document then goes on to talk about tax being applied to vaping devices as well as heated tobacco products. Heated tobacco products would be subject to a 55% tax rate increase or £91 per 1000 units sold. This is such a drastic leap in tax rates it’s just crazy, but it gets crazier with what they have suggested for vaping devices.
The document suggests that a varying tax rate be applied to vaping devices depending on the power output of the device. A 40% increase on “high powered” devices, and 20% increase on “low powered” vaping devices. I’ve honestly never heard anything so crazy regarding tax being added on to vaping devices than this, which is basically the high powered the device, the more tax being put on it!
The mere fact that vaping devices are being put in the same group as cigarettes and deemed a tobacco product infuriates me and taxing them like this proposal states is not going to benefit their bid to become a “tobacco free generation” in my opinion. Being tobacco free means no tobacco, and everything associated with vaping, from e-liquid to devices do not contain any form of tobacco, so why are they being categorised with tobacco products?! Baffles me.
The reasonings behind the increase, and what it could mean for the future
As I’ve mentioned, the primary reason that they give for these changes being implemented is to accelerate the push forward for a “tobacco free generation” by 2040. This means pushing tobacco use by EU citizens down to 20% by 2025 and less than 5% by the year 2040 rolls around. This is quite a tall order considering the population of the EU and the effort this will take, and I question whether such harsh increases like this tax hike is the right way to go about things.
Alberto Alemanno, who is a Professor of European Law at Paris Business School was quoted to say “the absence of an EU-wide taxation framework for e-cigarettes and heated tobacco weakens tobacco control efforts across the block”
I really do not agree with this in the slightest, as yet again, vaping is being put in the same class as tobacco with him saying that lack of tax on vaping products is weakening the tobacco control efforts. If they looked across the world, countries are backing vaping as a tobacco control method, not associating it with tobacco!
The other problem with these sudden tax hikes could see an increase in illicit black-market sales as a way for people to avoid paying the higher tax rates. Black market sales have risen drastically in countries that have imposed higher tax rates or bans on things like vape juice, or vaping devices. Australia introduced a ban of nicotine containing vape juice last year, and this ban has not worked in the slightest as the country is dealing with a mass surge of black-market sales of Disposable vapes that are being sold under the counter in convenience stores, by Uber drivers to their passengers and even criminal gangs capitalising on the opportunity to make some quick cash. And more recently California is introducing a flavour ban as voted by patrons of the state and Netherlands are also proposing a flavour ban in the country also.
Their justification on putting this tax on to vaping devices or “new tobacco products” as they call them is to stop them appealing to a younger audience who are at risk of developing an addiction to nicotine. A lot of the nicotine control measures that countries have introduced have been for similar reasons in an effort to protect young people from developing a nicotine addiction and it does make a lot of sense to do something like this, but I feel that Brussels using this as a reason for putting tax on vaping devices really doesn’t make sense and feels like they are just pulling this reasoning out to try and justify their actions.
What happens now?
As mentioned, this document was a “leak” so no official movements have been made, but how it is written and the clear plan that’s been laid out sounds like it is good to go.
However, with this being such a huge change in legislation there are a few boxes that needs to be ticked before it comes to fruition. The biggest box that needs ticking is there must be a unanimous vote on yes by all countries in the EU for this to pass as law and this will make it a very long process in my opinion. Several countries in the EU already have their own laws on vaping, and would likely welcome these changes with open arms, but some countries may not be so forthcoming for these changes.
Countries that were mentioned like Bulgaria and Poland make a high revenue from cigarette sales, from both domestic patrons as well as travelling tourists, due to the current price of cigarettes being so low. And with the changes being implemented of a high tax rate, they could likely expect to see a drop in revenue as prices will double from what they originally stood at.
I’m all for taxes being increased on tobacco and cigarettes, and I have discussed this in a separate article, I believe this is a solid move in the right direction for the reduction of tobacco harm, but I really don’t agree with this tax being implemented on vaping devices and them being typecasted in the same category as cigarettes. They are a tobacco harm reduction method, not a form of tobacco harm and I think the powers that be in this situation have got it all wrong by wanting to tax vaping devices, especially the fluctuating tax rates based on what power the device is.
British American Tobacco have voiced their opinion on this situation and says this is only the beginning to a long legislative process and I don’t think they are wrong. It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds and if any changes come to the current plan. As always, I will keep you updated with future articles.
Reference : Brussels to propose rise in cigarette taxes and first EU-wide vaping levy | Financial Times (ft.com)