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NNA Comment on Budget Announcement

The New Nicotine Alliance consumer charity says a tax on vaping liquids is irresponsible, will cost lives, and further erodes the UK’s former world-leading tobacco control strategy

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The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) says a tax on vaping liquids is irresponsible, will cost lives, and further erodes the UK’s former world-leading tobacco control strategy. The consumer charity believes the tax on vaping liquids is damaging in principle and in practice and that the Government is now fighting itself by taxing the very products it is urging smokers to try. The NNA says the government is clearly regulating from a position of ignorance and must urgently consult with consumer and public health experts.

The New Nicotine Alliance put out a statement, saying: “The Chancellor has approved a tax on vaping liquids which is ill-thought-out and will cost thousands of lives. The New Nicotine Alliance is exasperated that the government is systematically dismantling world-leading policy which was an example to the rest of the world on how to utilise innovative harm reduction approaches to rapidly reduce the toll of smoking-related disease.

“Following the ill-judged decision to ignore public health experts who warned of a ban on single use vapes deterring people who smoke from switching to products which could save their lives, it has now undermined its own admirable Swap to Stop campaign by vowing to increase the tax on the very products it is urging smokers to try. Furthermore, the design of the tax shows that government ministers have no understanding of how the devices help to reduce smoking prevalence. 

“Government is now fighting itself. It has been recently reported that 400,000 vaping products – the first of one million promised by the government last year - will be handed out free of charge under the Swap to Stop campaign, while the Chancellor is taxing them on the pretext that they are harmful. 

“The government’s own consultation document in October stated that ‘swapping to vaping is already helping 50,000 to 70,000 smokers in England quit each year - saving thousands of lives.’ This extra tax will be a significant obstruction to that progress.

“Just last week, a long-running Cancer Research UK funded study found that there were ‘substantial misperceptions about the harms of vaping compared with smoking’ and emphasised ‘the need to clearly communicate the risks so that adults who smoke can make informed choices about the nicotine products they use.’ The proposed tax on vaping liquids will further erode the public’s understanding of the difference between vaping and smoking and will harm public health.

“It is undeniable that taxing vapes further (liquids are already liable for VAT at 20%) will lead to more smoking than without a new tax. This will undoubtedly slow progress towards and imperil the government’s Smokefree 2030 goal. It will also boost illicit trade in vapes on top of the high level we already have, and place excessive burdens on small businesses of tax bureaucracy compliance, effectively penalising independent vape businesses and benefitting cigarette sales.”

NNA Chair, Louise Ross, told Planet of the Vapes: “Putting a higher tax on stronger e-liquids completely misses the point that the more heavily dependent smokers will need stronger liquid to stay smoke-free. This will include people with poor mental health, people on benefits, people living in disadvantaged communities and those with challenging lives. Higher taxes will keep them smoking.

“The Swap to Stop scheme relies on heavily dependent smokers being convinced of the value of switching to a rechargeable, refillable vaping product. Adding taxation to e-liquids risks all that. People in poverty who would have been easily persuaded to switch will simply go back to smoking, and the opportunity to get them off cigarettes will be lost.”

Clive Bates, former Director of Action on Smoking and Health and a voluntary public health adviser to the NNA, said: "A tax on vapes is basically a tax on health. If they are serious about getting smoking down to five per cent by 2030, the last thing the government would be doing is making it more expensive and less appealing to switch from smoking to vaping, which the government knows poses only a small fraction of the risk.

“The irony is that these measures won't stop vaping, but they will mean more vapes are supplied through criminal networks, unscrupulous middlemen and dodgy retailers. If you want to do something about youth vaping, focus on licensing retailers and irresponsible marketing and packaging."

The NNA concludes by stating that instead of issuing kneejerk policies driven by moral panic about reduced risk alternatives to smoking, it is imperative that the government urgently consults with consumer and public health experts. The charity says Rishi Sunak’s administration cannot claim to care for the UK’s public health if it continues to promote policies which can only lead to more smoking-related disease and death. 

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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