The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union (EU), is holding a public consultation on the taxation of tobacco and vaping products.
After postponing a decision on an EU-wide vape tax earlier this year, the Commission could introduce excise duties or ‘sin taxes’ on vaping products in all 28 EU member states in 2019.
Consumer associations and tobacco harm reduction organisations in 16 EU countries are encouraging European vapers to respond to the consultation questionnaire and sign a petition opposing the tax.
In a similar consultation in 2016, 90% of respondents rejected the idea of taxing vapor products.
At the time of writing, the Change.org petition had attracted more than 17,000 signatures.
Vaping has helped more than 7.5m Europeans stop smoking
Using data from the EU itself, vape advocates from the Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK, among others, argue that vaping has helped more than 7.5 million Europeans stop smoking and a further 9 million reduce their cigarette consumption.
The European Commission says that the consultation is designed to collect views on taxation on tobacco products including what it calls ‘novel products’ like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.
Views from private citizens, businesses and governments will be used to inform a possible revision of European Council Directive 2011/64/EU, which sets out rules on the structure and rates of excise duty of tobacco products.
“The purpose of the Directive is to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market and a high level of health protection,” says the Commission.
Vaping campaigners, however, point out that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking and can promote positive health outcomes through tobacco harm reduction.
“Any harmonization project should instead look to prohibiting the levy of excise duty on vaping products in the European Union,” said the coalition of campaign groups.
“Vaping products do not contain tobacco and are not combustible. Vaping does not therefore produce smoke, carbon monoxide or tar, and vaping is at least 95% less harmful to health than smoking combustible cigarettes.
“Vaping products are not tobacco products and the users of vaping products should not have to suffer a punitive and unjustified tax,” they concluded.
Strictest vaping legislation in the western world
The EU has already imposed some of the strictest vaping legislation in the western world.
Introduced in 2016, the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) restricts e-cig tanks to a capacity of no more than 2ml and nicotine e-liquid containers to no more than 10ml. It also bans e-liquids with a nicotine strength above 20mg/ml.
Nine EU member states already have some kind of tax on vapor products. European countries that tax vaping products include Italy, Portugal, Greece, Estonia and Hungary.
In these markets, data shows that the tax has served to protect smoking, with fewer people ditching combustible cigarettes for electronic alternatives.
Some EU countries, meanwhile, have adopted a much more progressive approach to tobacco harm reduction and vaping.
Britain has been at the forefront of the vaper revolution, not just acting against bans and taxation but deliberately making e-cigs more widely available and using regulation to improve quality and reliability.
Public Health England completed a landmark study showing that vaping is 95% safer than smoking and the Royal College of Physicians and the UK’s National Health Service have both backed e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking.
The Nanny State Index, produced by the Institute of Economic Affairs, ranked the UK, Germany and the Czech Republic among the most vaper-friendly European destinations.
Sweden came out on top of the list because it is the only EU country where snus, another kind of smokeless tobacco, is legal.
If you are a European vaper, make sure that you respond to the questionnaire and sign the petition to protect tax-free vaping.