Image credit: www.vaping360.com
This blog was first posted on Huffington Post.
Whilst reading the paper on yesterday morning’s commute into work, you may have been amazed to read plans of a tax hike from Brussels which will send the price of e-cigarettes sky-high. Surely not, you probably thought to yourself, especially in the run up to the EU referendum when Brussels is trying to be on its best behaviour…
However, a decision ratified by EU finance ministers this week means the 2.2 million people in the UK who currently use e-cigarettes can look forward to a 77% tax rate on their purchases. This will bring vaping – the smoking option accepted as the healthiest by many experts – into the same tax bracket as cigarettes and cigars.
Looking a little deeper into the decision, it becomes clear the European Union only has its own coffers in mind, rather than the health of the Great British Public, as well as Europeans.
We often hear stories of lobbyists in Brussels determined to push their own agenda – as there’s a great deal of money at stake – but the tobacco industry takes this to a whole new level.
In 2014, The Tobacco Products Directive was amended solely to suit the demands of the Tobacco lobby. This Directive was labelled the most lobbied dossier in the history of the EU.
Philip Morris International is one of the major tobacco companies spending a huge amount of money on lobbying the European Union. In 2013 alone, it was reported the company spent €5 million and used 200 lobbyists to prevent sections of the Tobacco Products Directive from becoming legislation.
It seems when it comes to the European Union – money can buy you anything.
With medical experts encouraging the use of e-cigarettes, it can be assumed the profit margins of tobacco companies across the continent are shrinking fast. In 2014 alone, around 900,000 people used e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking – many more than any other method. The number of tobacco cigarettes sold in the European Union is expected to decrease from 450 billion currently sold to 375 billion by 2021.
Deborah Arnott of the health charity ASH has said: “If the EU were to require states to tax electronic cigarettes like tobacco products it would be detrimental to public health. It would discourage smokers from switching.”
It seems as though the tobacco lobbyists have been up to their old tricks again. They do not like the competition as the tobacco industry is losing so much money.
It’s a case of the EU deliberately encouraging a seriously unhealthy habit – a habit which costs the British NHS between £2.7 and £6 billion every year and is responsible for 700,000 deaths within Europe – in return for cash from unaccountable and unelected lobbyists sent from around the globe to nobble the European Union.
Many people are not even aware these lobbyists exist – yet whist we are under the rule of Brussels, there is nothing we can do to get rid of them. They will continue to impact on all aspects of our everyday lives.
Also, it is interesting to point out – only the tobacco lobby has access to the EU Commission. The anti-tobacco lobby has no access at all!
Recently, it has been discovered the European Commission has refused to curb lobbying by the tobacco firms by not fully applying transparency rules created by the United Nations. The UN’s World Health Organisation bans public policy makers from fraternising in secret with tobacco firms under the so-called Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
In February 2016, the EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said the Brussels executive ignored her recommendations to fully publish all details of meetings with tobacco lobbyists or their legal representatives. This was an attempt to try to push the EU into some kind of transparency – but Brussels continues to ignore the advice given to them and refuses to let the public see all details.
This means tobacco lobbyists can exert pressure or influence freely, without scrutiny from the public.
The Great British Public are starting to see the European Union for the undemocratic institution it really is. Not only is the EU controlled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, but also by these lobbyists many people on the street did not even know exist or have so much influence.
Smoking costs British taxpayers billions of pounds every year – and e-cigarettes are recognised by many health officials as an important tool in helping people to give up the habit.
These bureaucrats in Brussels are clearly unconcerned about the huge number of deaths this decision will likely cause. No-one will hold them to account for the damage and grief they inflict- and we can never get rid of them. The EU demonstrates once again it is there for the benefit the huge companies and institutions who can afford to spend millions of pounds to lobby it to twist the laws in their favour. This is yet another reason we must Get Britain Out of the increasingly undemocratic EU.