EU countries are preparing to tax e-cigarettes under the same regime as normal cigarettes, in a move likely to increase prices and to prompt a fight among corporate lobbyists in Brussels.
Last Friday (26 February), member states’ ambassadors agreed to take the first step by asking the European Commission to draft an “appropriate legislative proposal” in 2017.
The project is to be endorsed without further discussion when the bloc’s finance ministers meet on 8 March.
The ministers’ draft conclusions said that e-cigarettes, as well as other “novel” products, could cause “inconsistencies and legal uncertainty” in the single market if they remained exempt from excise tax.
They also said excise duties or some “other specifically designed tax” on novel tobacco items, which use steam instead of smoke to put nicotine into people’s lungs, could help meet “public health objectives”.
They added that work on the new tax regime should be “intensified” if “the market share of such products show a tendency to increase”.
A nice little reminder, there, that it's not about health.
With several EU capitals still struggling to balance the books, the commission in a report in December also said e-cigarette taxes could have “significant long term budgetary implications” for national treasuries.
We can't have people quitting smoking, can we? Think of the budgets.
One EU official said on Monday (29 February) it was “self-evident” that the price of e-cigarettes would go up if the commission went ahead. A second official said it was “too early to say what effect the review” of excise rules might have on prices.
I can only conclude that the second official is brain dead.
The European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention, a Brussels-based group, is calling for tougher EU rules.
An EU-funded pressure group calling for more powers for the EU. Fancy that!
If this is what the EU is doing when the British have been given an escape hatch, imagine what it will be like if we vote to stay in.