In a press release published last week, the NNA reported that according to media reports, Whitehall sources were quoted as saying that a tax on vaping products is being considered for the autumn Budget. The NNA explained that it strongly condemns the idea of imposing such a tax on products known to be helping millions of smokers quit or dramatically reduce their cigarette use.
“E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking and the UK boasts 1.5 million former smokers who have converted from combustible tobacco to exclusively vaping instead. Applying a so-called ‘sin tax’ is completely inappropriate for products which have a successful track record of diverting smokers away from combustible tobacco. Switching from smoking to vaping is not ‘sinning’, it is the exact opposite.” said NNA Chair Sarah Jakes.
A ‘sin tax’ would be counterproductive
Jakes added that such a motion would be going against the ongoing efforts to promote the devices as safer alternatives. “The UK has spent decades trying to convince smokers to quit and devices that can deliver the nicotine they enjoy without the harm of combustible tobacco are a perfect solution for huge numbers of people. Vaping has been the catalyst for a dramatic decline in smoking prevalence in recent years. It is, therefore, highly unethical for government to then financially punish vapers, especially since public health campaigns like Stoptober actively encourage the use of e-cigarettes.”
She added that vaping is endorsed by the major local health bodies, and that implementing such a tax would be sending the wrong message to the public. “Health groups in the UK rightly support tobacco harm reduction, as endorsed by the Behavioural Insights Team set up by government. Public Health England also back vaping and the Royal College of Physicians urges wide promotion of e-cigarettes to reassure and encourage smokers to use them, as does the government’s own Tobacco Control Plan.
“The UK is regarded worldwide as a global leader in tobacco harm reduction and the results speak for themselves”, said Jakes, “however public perception of the benefits of vaping has stalled. Applying a tax can only further degrade general misperceptions by implying that vaping is a ‘sin’ and therefore dangerous. A new tax on vaping products would be unethical, sends entirely the wrong message to smokers, is at odds with current government policy, and would be a retrograde step for public health. It is a daft idea and one which we urge the Treasury to abandon immediately.”
Lawmakers should focus on promoting the devices for smoking cessation
The NNA concluded by pointing out that instead of considering such a tax, the government should be working at promoting e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, and collaborating with local harm reduction and health organizations, in order to spread the potentially life saving information about the products.