EU vape tax consultation provokes crushing response
The EU Commission has just released the results of their three-month public consultation on new tobacco taxes, which took place between November and February. This consultation was aimed at updating the European Union’s rules on minimum sin tax levels following the revised TPD – and that means it’s looking at vapour products.
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In fact it was the question on vapour products that attracted most of the responses to the consultation. Out of 7,686 responses 5,203 came from vapers – and, encouragingly, only 81 from NGOs, who usually dominate these consultations. This question asked whether e-cigarettes and liquids should be subject to an additional tax. Just 1.78% said yes, 6.12% only wanted a tax on nicotine-containing liquids, and an overwhelming 89.88% said no.
It’s difficult to predict what effect, if any, this will have on EU policy. The Commission has a poor track record of listening to consultations which don’t return the “correct” answer, and a previous one on vaping saw most responses simply deleted on the grounds that they were astroturf. However the response to this one was so overwhelmingly negative that even the EU would struggle to spin it as public support for a vape tax.
New York health officials tell smokers, “Don’t vape”
In a move which has shocked harm reduction experts, the New York State Department of Health has released new guidelines to doctors that essentially tell smokers not to quit unless they do it with a licensed therapy – then backed them up by claiming that switching to vaping has no benefits.
The guidelines, distributed last month, encourage New York doctors to warn their patients against vaping even if they aren’t interested in using licensed quit products. This is a sharp contrast to the UK, where e-cigarettes are now being actively promoted as a solution for smokers who don’t want to stop using nicotine recreationally.
Doubling down on their hardline position, New York’s senior public health medics announced last weekend that there is “no credible public health value” in moving from lit tobacco to vapour products. This flatly contradicts the evidence and boils down to telling smokers they might as well keep smoking.
New FDA nominee may be good for US vapers
President Trump’s attempts to fill his administration’s top jobs continue to cause uproar, but his candidate for head of the Food and Drug Administration might be just what the increasingly activist agency has been needing. Scott Gottlieb, a clinical professor at the New York University school of medicine who already has FDA experience, seems to be a lot more positive about harm reduction than those who currently lead the agency.
Gottlieb has been a long-standing critic of the Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA authority over tobacco products, and he has openly stated that there’s a conflict between industries who want to make reduced-harm nicotine products and activists who’re trying to stop them. Under pharma industry veteran Mitch Zeller, the FDA’s tobacco products division has leant strongly towards the activists; if his nomination is confirmed Gottlieb is likely to change that.
Although Gottlieb might not make a dramatic move like scrapping the Deeming Regulations, he could significantly change the way they’re enforced by pushing for a different culture within the FDA. One thing he has previously argued for is a simplification of the agency’s incredibly long and expensive drug approval process; that could also reduce the impact of the Deeming Regs on vapour products. Whatever happens, though, it’s unlikely Gottlieb could be as bad as the incumbents.
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Teen smoking in New York hits record low
Smoking among teenagers in New York state is now at the lowest level since records began. Just 4.3% of state high school students smoked last year, down from 27% in 2000. In the same period the number of teens who vape has risen from zero to almost 21% – which, although it doesn’t prove causation, does suggest that vaping is replacing smoking. Anti-tobacco activists claim that the rate of teen tobacco use hasn’t changed, but this relies on rigging the numbers by classing tobacco-free vapour products as tobacco.
Unfortunately New York’s state politicians are choosing to see vaping as a threat rather than a lifeline; governor Andrew Cuomo wants to close “dangerous loopholes” that “leave e-cigarettes unregulated” – although they’re actually regulated much more strictly than actual cigarettes – while the state health commissioner continues to repeat the long-debunked gateway claim. It appears that New York state officials are more interested in complaining about teen smoking than in actually ending it – and they’re unhappy that e-cigs are ending it for them.