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The EU’s Aversion To Vaping

The European Union is conducting a process to establish new protocols for vaping but is it consultation in name only?

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The European Union is conducting a process to establish new protocols for vaping but is it consultation in name only? It is “consulting” on reforms to the Tobacco Taxation Directive and the formulation of the new iteration of the Tobacco Products Directive, yet the direction of travel is clear, and it is not going to be nice.

The next phase for the review of the Tobacco Taxation Directive opened with a public consultation (1) on 30 March. The process will run until 22 June but only organisations or businesses that are registered on the EU Transparency Register (2) will be able to submit comments.

The barriers placed in the way of ease of comment lies at the heart of the poor level of response to the first phase, just 134 submissions were entered from across the whole of Europe.

The mood music emanating from Europe is that vaping products will be tax in line with tobacco products, eliminating the cost benefit of switching. The impact of increasing the tax on e-cigs can be seen in Italy when thousands of ex-smokers gave up vaping, returned to smoking, and an industry promoting tobacco harm reduction was devastated.

The phenomenon has been seen in America too, Filter Mag reports: “California’s vapor tax went into effect in 2017, when 6.7 percent of current smokers in the Golden State were aged 18-24. In 2018, this proportion had increased by 34 percent, to 9 percent. Delaware’s e-cigarette tax took effect in 2018, when only 10.5 percent of current smokers were aged 18-24. In 2019, this had increased by 48.6 percent, to 15.6 percent.” (3)

Lindsey Stroud lists other American examples.

The EU talks a good game (4). It claims the taxation situation needs to be addressed because, “the current rules are not aligned to address market developments and the entry into the market of new products, such as e-cigarettes”.

It claims, “The current EU rules are being reviewed to ensure that they remain fit for purpose to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market and at the same time a high level of health protection.”

But, as we have seen with the production of the SCHEER report, evidence and facts are taking a back seat to ideology. A high level of health protection would mean embracing tobacco harm reduction and promoting vaping to smokers, but MEPs are refusing to see the good example the United Kingdom has set.

French MEP Michèle Rivasi typifies the position being taken (5).

The electronic cigarette is a product that must be treated with the same level of vigilance as tobacco products…we need to consider electronic cigarettes as a medical device, in the same way as gum or patches are pharmaceutical products.”

Why does vaping need to be treated like smoking? Because, according to Rivasi, of “the 2019 health scare in the US”. A health scare that had absolutely nothing to do with vaping.

Offer up evidence to Rivasi and she fires back with, “At the same time, we can cite a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association” – corrupt junk science.

Rivasi sees no reason not to tax vaping like smoking because she can’t understand science, and those like her are powering forward to make legislation grounded in emotion. If tobacco harm reduction is to succeed in Europe then it needs to appeal to MEPs’ emotions – it needs a different approach, facts aren’t working.


  1. Public consultation -
  2. Transparency register -
  3. To Increase Smoking Rates Among Young Adults, Keep Hiking Vape Taxes -
  4. Tobacco taxation – excise duties for manufactured tobacco products (updated rules) -
  5. MEP: E-cigarettes have a place in EU cancer plan, but we must remain vigilant -

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Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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