Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Nanny State Index: nicotine supplement

This week saw the publication of a supplement to the Nanny State Index which shows how 30 European countries compare on tobacco harm reduction. It looks at the taxation and regulation of e-cigarettes, snus and heat-not-burn tobacco.

You can download the Nicotine Supplement here. The UK does well thanks to its relatively liberal approach to vaping. Ireland, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands also look good for the same reason.

There is significant variation in the regulation and taxation of e-cigarettes and vaping across Europe. In some respects, trends are going in a positive direction. Until 2016, several countries banned the sale of nicotine e-cigarette fluid, but all EU countries now allow the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping fluids as consumer products.

However, all EU countries are now obliged to enforce the Tobacco Products Directive which limits the range of products that can be sold and prohibits most e-cigarette advertising. And although prohibition is losing its appeal, indoor vaping bans and taxation are on the rise. When the first edition of the Nanny State Index was published in 2016, Italy and Portugal were the only EU countries with an excise tax on e-cigarette fluids. By 2017, a further six countries had introduced a tax. As this report shows, the number of countries that have vaping taxes has now risen to twelve. In 2016, nine countries prohibited vaping wherever smoking was banned. That number has also risen to twelve.

The best performing country is Sweden but that looks set to change. Regulation of e-cigarettes has been quirky in Sweden for a few years. They were effectively banned when they were regulated as medical products, but the supreme court later ruled that they are not medical products and a period of total laissez-faire followed when they were not regulated at all. The Swedes missed the deadline for implementing the Tobacco Products Directive but have now done so. There has been no gold-plating of the EU regulations and this, combined with its exemption from the EU ban on snus, gives Sweden a good score. Not for long, though, as it seems that a tax on vape juice and a ban on indoor vaping are on the cards.

At the other end of the league table, Finland is the worst country (as it is in the Nanny State Index as a whole), with Hungary not far behind.

The next worst are Switzerland and Norway which have been included in the NSI for the first time. Both counties will be much higher up the league table next year as the Swiss courts have just repealed the ban on e-cigarettes and Norway is in the process of legalising e-cigarettes.

Norway and Sweden are the only countries of the 30 included in the Index where snus is legal. Not coincidentally, they also have the lowest smoking rates. The country with the next lowest smoking rate is the UK where vaping is especially popular. Again, this is not a coincidence.

The Index also includes the regulation of heated tobacco products such as iQOS and Glo. Regulation of these products is in its infancy and the products have not even been brought to market in all 30 countries, but there are already wide disparities in the way they are taxed. A couple of countries have even banned them.

Click to enlarge the table below to see how each country fares.

As the Swiss court case last month showed, this is a fast moving regulatory environment so if you spot any mistakes in the Index, let me know in the comments.

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