The UK Vape Tax: Another Misstep From an Incompetent Government

The Tories are desperate for money. Well, they’re desperate for everything, including ideas, leadership, and credibility. But, most of all, Jeremy Hunt, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, is determined to pick the pockets of UK vapers to pad his coffers.

During the Spring Budget, Hunt announced measures to ban disposable vapes and add up to £3 to the price of 10ml bottles of e-liquid. The excise duty on cigarettes will rise by a mere 40p.

All of this is being done in the name of the NHS. However, if you’re worried about citizens’ health, making harm reduction products less accessible is provably ignorant. 

Why the UK vape tax is all wrong

We already have research that shows the effect that lopsided tax increases have on smoking prevalence rates. The effects of traditional cigarette and e-cigarette tax rates on adult tobacco product use (Pesko, 2020) studied this dynamic in the US. The paper found that increases in cigarette taxes correlated with an increase in vaping. When vapes are taxed higher, smoking increases.

Hunt’s claim that he’s doing this to help the NHS is absurd and insulting. Removing disposable vapes from the market would be bad enough alone. They’re a great tool to coax people off cigarettes because they’re cheap and work right out of the box. You don’t need to take a deep dive into vaping to find a solution that works for you; you can do that once you’re comfortable and off the cigarettes.

Yet, Hunt isn’t happy to stop there. He also wants to tax e-liquids. It is, plain and simple, a sin tax on products that already have a 20% excise duty attached.

The UK vape will not help the NHS

Now, these sorts of taxes are nothing new. They already exist for things like alcohol and sugary drinks. However, whether you agree or disagree with sin taxes, they do make a sort of twisted sense in the context of having a national healthcare system. 

But when your sin taxes start pushing people away from much safer alternatives — and by dint, back towards lethal products — it’s hard to make an argument that it will benefit the NHS.

Up until a few years ago, it was only the lunatic fringe politicians who would lick their lips and see how they could exploit vaping to grab a few headlines. This sort of “out of the box” thinking was always seen as moronic, and rightly so. However, the Conservative’s predetermined consultation and ear for concerned citizens somehow convinced Hunt and his pals that this was, in fact, a credible policy to pursue.

How to fight back

Thankfully, the Vaping Products Duty consultation runs until May 29th. It offers people who vape or anyone who believes in harm reduction a chance to have their say about this outrageous sin tax that directly punishes people who have done what they were told to do: give up smoking. 

There are about 5 million vapers in the UK. That is a powerful bloc of voters that should prove interesting to a government hanging on by a thread and set for a historic wipeout when the election is finally called. We must make our voices heard during this consultation. Every one of us.

If enough vapers can voice their displeasure at these taxes, then Hunt and his party’s desperation to cling to power will work against them. It’s not as if a Labour government will propose more sensible regulations for vaping, so the time to strike is now. 

Sure, not all vapers are single-issue voters, but many of us are. Protecting the products that help us and others lead healthier lives is profoundly important. If the Conservatives can’t understand that, it’s time for them to go. Get out there and have your say.