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NNA Launches Blistering Attack – Part 1

With the dust settling following the Budget statement, the New Nicotine Alliance says the Chancellor’s vape tax is wrong in principle and naïve in application

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With the dust settling following the Budget statement, the New Nicotine Alliance says the Chancellor’s vape tax is wrong in principle and naïve in application. The charity says the budget proposals undermine the government’s swap to stop campaign, making the Smokefree 2030 aspiration now unattainable, punishes vaping more than smoking (costing lives), and relies on Government documents that are “childlike and embarrassingly misunderstand science”.

The New Nicotine Alliance says that it finds it difficult to know where to start when it comes to describing the fundamental flaws behind the new vape tax proposal announced in last week’s budget. Despite this, the charity systematically pulls apart the flaws in the chancellor’s scheme.


There is a complete lack of joined-up thinking in the government spending tax receipts on encouraging smokers to quit by handing out one million free vapes, only to then disincentivise those who take up the offer by applying heavy duties to the liquids they need to actually use them. The proposed framework reveals these clear informational problems across government and a fundamental misunderstanding of the realities of vaping,” the New Nicotine Alliance says.


The government seems preoccupied by what the nicotine liquid equivalent of a cigarette is, whereas it is irrelevant how much nicotine a vape contains compared with nicotine in a cigarette because the products are completely different. Nicotine is not the element that causes the death and disease, it is the combustion. As Action on Smoking and Health explains, ‘puffs on vapes ARE NOT equivalent to puffs on cigarettes’,” the New Nicotine Alliance adds.


The charity goes on to state: “To say the proposals are ill thought-out would be an understatement. The public should expect its government to investigate a policy area comprehensively before proposing punitive taxation which imposes significant costs on people who have quit smoking exactly as they have been encouraged to do by the NHS. It has not been done in this case.

“Instead, the documents published to back up the imposition of a new vape tax are notable for being almost childlike. There is a non-existent appreciation of the difference between content, consumption, and absorption of nicotine.”


The NNA continues: “For example, an IPSOS poll commissioned in November but only published on the day of the budget announcement makes the claim that ‘The average (mean) strength of nicotine used amongst current vapers was reported to be 10mg per ml (just under the strength of a typical cigarette)’.

“This definition has never been used before; it is not recognised in any literature on the subject. Indeed, the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (2016) (TRPR) is the mechanism by which the government transposed regulations from the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (2014) (TPD) into UK law.

“Article 18 of the TPD states that, ‘Nicotine-containing liquid should only be allowed to be placed on the market under this Directive, where the nicotine concentration does not exceed 20 mg/ml. This concentration allows for a delivery of nicotine that is comparable to the permitted dose of nicotine derived from a standard cigarette during the time needed to smoke such a cigarette’.

“The maximum nicotine limit allowed in vaping liquids in the UK is set at 20mg/ml, to precisely align with the EU’s definition of what they consider to be equivalent for one cigarette. Yet IPSOS has conjured up an entirely new level and does not cite any source for it.

“The best we can assume as to how this level was decided is that cigarettes are limited to 12mg of nicotine content and so that is what they have gone with. It is the simplistic thinking you would expect from an increasingly misinformed public rather than a government department, but this ignorant interpretation has been accepted without question.

“The EU’s definition itself was flawed by comparing what comes out of a cigarette with what goes in to an e-cigarette. They based their crude assessment on a study in 2014 which discussed nicotine absorption, the author of which wrote to the EU to complain that they had misrepresented his research and that ‘20 mg/ml e-liquid provides less than one-third of the nicotine delivered by one tobacco cigarette’.”


The NNA explains: “So, we now have government legislating to apply a tax on vaping liquid at least six times harsher than they do for cigarettes.

“Best estimate from that research was that nicotine absorption after smoking for 5 minutes is between 185% and 286% higher than the vaping devices tested after 5 minutes. There is no recognition of that science in the government’s facile justification of the vape tax. Applying duty on the contents of vape liquids and cigarettes, rather than the absorption of the products, is scientifically and morally illiterate.

“In his speech, Jeremy Hunt claimed that: ‘Because vapes can also play a positive role in helping people quit smoking, we will introduce a one-off increase in tobacco duty at the same time to maintain the financial incentive to choose vaping over smoking.’

“He has done nothing of the sort. The public consultation document released alongside the budget announcement states that users of stronger liquids (≥11mg/ml) will face a 143% price increase. Weaker liquids (<11mg/ml) will go up by 98%, and nicotine-free liquids by 48%.

“The increase in combustible tobacco duty, by comparison, is around 2.5%. To put that into context. As a result of the budget, a 20 per day smoker will take 21 days to pay the extra duty that a standard vaper using 20mg/ml liquid will pay in 7 days. The Chancellor has considerably reduced the financial differential between smoking and vaping.”

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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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