Every now and then, some whacky politician proposes that we implement a vape tax. They don’t typically run the numbers on these madcap schemes, but someone has, and the results are pretty predictable.

Vape Tax Study

Georgia State University in Atlanta released a research paper on vape tax last month. It looked at what happened when state governments levied a $1 rise on e-cigarettes.

The study observed a total of 38,906 18 to 25-year-olds and found that a $1 vape tax led to:

A) a decrease in e-cigarette usage

B) an increase in tobacco smoking by 3.7%

The researchers also found a symmetrical effect if the tax was instead on tobacco cigarettes, with more users abandoning smoking and turning to vaping.

Whatsmore, the authors also quoted other research that suggests a rise in vape tax meant an increase in smoking among:

  • adults
  • youths
  • pregnant women

While this is a US study on the US population, it could tell us something about the consequences of a vape tax or any rise in the cost of vape products relative to tobacco.

One of the reasons why it was easy for the researchers to run this kind of experiment is because US states have different tax laws. 

Overall, the paper is interesting and definitely worth a read. The researchers don’t have any conflicts of interest, and as far as I can tell, they’re not even pro-vaping. 

Their main conclusion is that if a vape tax is applied, it should happen alongside a much larger tobacco tax. Additionally, the researchers do go on to say that increased use of electronic cigarettes wouldn’t necessarily be a bad outcome if these products are taken up by people who would otherwise smoke. However, this begs the question, why on earth would you even consider taxing vaping? Seeing as we know nicotine isn’t what causes harm in cigarettes, taxing vaping would be akin to taxing coffee.

Other interesting points

The Georgia State University paper cites a few other recent studies. One that particularly caught my eye was a 2021 report titled Balancing Consideration of the Risks and Benefits of E-Cigarettes. What’s perhaps most notable about that research is that it was endorsed by 15 former presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.

The paper was pretty sensible. It talked about the media’s poor performance on vaping matters. Additionally, the paper mourned how misinformed the American public is on the dangers of vaping.

They also addressed the fact that “the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that e-cigarette use is likely far less hazardous than smoking.”

The main issue the paper tackled was the need for public policy that weighed concerns about e-cigarettes against their obvious benefits. 

What these studies can tell us about vaping in the UK and the possibility of a vape tax

The data presented in these papers won’t be a huge shock to anyone. Especially if you’ve spent any time thinking about these issues. One of the reasons respondents in the SmokefreeGB survey last year quoted for vaping was that it saved money.

In the UK context, any policy that seeks to tax e-cigarettes will directly impact the health service. If there isn’t a sufficient difference between the price of e-cigarettes and tobacco, there is a portion of people who will start smoking again.

If the public is forced into these decisions, it will put more pressure on the NHS and could essentially offset any extra monies raised through this method. Additionally, it will lead to worse outcomes and suffering for the people affected. 

Currently, nicotine gum and patches carry a VAT rate of 5%. The reason is that manufacturers design pharmaceutical products to help people stop smoking.

Considering the effects demonstrated in the Georgia State University study, it would be interesting to see how a VAT reduction of 15% on vaping products would affect UK smoking rates.

Wrap up

Sometimes this stuff is so simple it’s difficult to know why people don’t understand it. But it’s good to see research from neutral bodies discussing the health benefits of vaping. 

It makes a welcome break from the mainstream media’s ongoing campaign of scaremongering and misinformation that seems to worsen by the day.

Contact us to let us know what you think.