News broke in February that UK ministers recently announced their intentions to increase vape tax on certain products and implement new regulations in the near future.
The primary reason for this proposed tax increase is to reduce the numbers of underage people using vapes. This forms part of the government’s response to the Khan review that was conducted last year to determine the UK’s likelihood to reach their smoke-free goal by 2030.
Groups such as Action on Smoking Health (Ash) and Local Government Association (LGA) are two of the main groups urging ministers to act, along with various government councils.
The main target of these proposed taxes are disposable vapes due to their popularity with the underage population in the UK.
The Proposed Excise Tax and Regulations
The proposed excise tax and tightened regulations are coming from a number of groups. The primary campaigners are Ash and the LGA.
Ash has called on Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to add an exorbitant tax increase to rapidly fight vaping numbers to combat increasing underage vaping numbers.
If Ash should have their way, a single-use disposable would be subject to tax of around £4, in addition to the base price of around £4.99. This would mean that a single-use product would almost double in price.
The key here is that the proposed tax is to tackle disposable vapes. The logic is that these are what is being seen in the hands of underage people, while adults prefer better setups.
The group has made it very clear that while they are hoping to increase regulations to deter minors from vaping, they do not want this to affect the adult vaping population. This is in fear of these adults going back to cigarettes, costing both lives and the chance of a smoke-free status by 2030.
While the government is not exactly prohibiting disposable vapes, the implementation of such a steep tax could very well be the death of the disposable market in the UK.
Another tactic that the LGA is urging is for the government to increase regulations around packaging, marketing, and flavors.
This should certainly be met with mixed opinions. Most would agree that packaging and marketing can be hugely influential, particularly with the underage population. This was seen with once-giant Juul, who has faced countless lawsuits as a result.
On the other hand, flavors appeal to adults and minors alike and are a fundamental pillar of why vaping is so effective in drawing people away from smoking.
The UK ministers need to seriously consider their plans with respect to regulating flavors further. Done carelessly, the UK will plummet from being the strongest champion of vaping to being in line with the painfully frustrating situation unfolding in the US.
Should Vapes Be Treated the Same as Tobacco?
The thought behind these proposed taxes is that more can be done in terms of regulation to keep vapes out of the hands of teens. However, whenever regulations increase, there are bound to be repercussions.
The UK is currently the world leader in using vapes as a means to reduce the drastic harm that traditional cigarettes cause.
In the UK, cigarettes are required to have plain designs and be out of sight in a store. This may be a successful way to deter underage vaping. At the very least, it has the potential to prevent more minors from starting to vape.
Of course, underage vaping is a problem, but the addition of such steep taxes will potentially have unwanted consequences for adult smokers who use vapes to stay off of cigarettes.
However, it may be right to allow the UK government to do what they will. There have not been many instances where they have acted on vaping regulations without acknowledging the statistics, like so commonly seen in the US.
“Vapes should only be used as an aid to quit smoking. While research has shown vaping poses a small fraction of the risks of smoking, it is deeply worrying that more and more children – who have never smoked – are starting vaping.” said David Fotehrgill, the chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board.
It will not often be said that there is benefit in practicing regulations more in line with tobacco products.
The UK’s Vaping Landscape
In the face of stifling regulation in countries across the globe, the UK has been the exception. The government here has freely acknowledged that vaping holds a place in reducing the amount of harm from tobacco products.
Just last year, the UK reached an all-time high of 4.3 million vapers. Of these, roughly half of users reported that they were ex-smokers.
Not only has the government adopted vaping for its benefits over cigarettes, they are attempting to eliminate cigarettes altogether as part of their goal of a smoke-free country by 2030.
This is something that is sorely lacking in the US.
While more and more products are being issued marketing denial orders and flavor bans are being implemented in various states, there are little to no changes in cigarette regulations (aside from flavored tobacco bans).
This, of course, means that people will likely just revert back to smoking once vaping becomes too inconvenient or not attractive enough.
If it is possible for a country to successfully regulate vaping as strictly as tobacco, while not putting adults off of the less harmful alternative, the UK may just be it.
Ministers in the UK government, along with a number of groups, are campaigning to implement new regulations to reduce the prevalence of underage vaping.
These proposed regulations, which will consist of a heavy excise tax on disposable products, will aim to reduce the appeal of vaping products, particularly to the underage population.
The UK government has done well to champion vaping’s place in reducing harm from cigarettes, so it will be interesting to see how these changes will be implemented as they have the potential to bolster or break all the good that has been done so far.
This could pave the way for other countries to implement such concise regulations when compared to the prohibitionist tactics seen elsewhere.