Nanny State Index slams EU members’ vaping policy
A new report by the Nanny State Index, a project set up to monitor intrusive, anti-consumer legislation, has strongly criticised the punitive approach to safer nicotine products that is increasingly being adopted across the European Union. While there are some bright spots, the Index argues that the EU as a whole is heading in the wrong direction – with potentially dire consequences for public health.
The Nanny State Index is published by think tank Epicenter and compiled by Institute of Economic Affairs director Christopher Snowdon. As well as an annual scorecard ranking EU countries by consumer freedom it also releases reports on issues of special concern, and the suppression of reduced-harm nicotine products has now reached that threshold.
In the 72-page report, Snowdon acknowledges that there has been progress in some areas – for example, nicotine e-liquid is now legal in all EU member states and all other European countries except Switzerland. He also identifies two countries with a positive approach to harm reduction – Sweden with snus, and the UK with vapour products.
However, Snowdon also criticises the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive, which imposes harsh restrictions on what vapour products can be sold and how they can be advertised. Now, national governments are increasingly gold-plating the TPD rules and imposing extra taxes on vapers – twelve of the 28 EU members have already done so, and the EU itself is pushing for “harmonisation” of taxes between e-cigarettes and tobacco.
Drug/Vaping hysteria continues to grow
A new press release by a New Jersey-based addiction expert claims that teen use of vapour products “puts a structure in place for cocaine and heroin addiction”. Detox centre director Dr Indra Cidambi claims that between e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco, teen nicotine use “may actually have increased” – an opinion that is contradicted by National Youth Tobacco Survey data – and believes that “this (vaping) trend is dangerous.”
Controversially, Cidambi also argues that nicotine use can “prime” the brain for other drugs. He claims that use of nicotine makes teenagers more likely to go on to use hard drugs, by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. This claim isn’t new, but what Cidambi and others have missed is that anything pleasurable increases levels of dopamine in the brain. Following this logic, any time someone does something they enjoy they are putting themselves at risk of becoming a crack addict. This view does not have mainstream support among neuroscientists.
Vermont vaping tax likely to pass – but faces veto
A tax standoff seems imminent in Vermont, where state legislators are due to vote on a bill that would impose a stiff tax on all vapour products. Supporters of House Bill 922 argue that as well as benefitting public health the legislation is necessary for the state’s spending plans. However, the governor is likely to veto it on the grounds that Vermonters are already taxed enough.
The core of HB 922 is a 46% wholesale tax on vapor products, similar to the 40% tax in Pennsylvania that forced the closure of a third of that state’s vaping businesses. A similar tax was recently rejected by New York, but Vermont’s state legislature is pushing ahead with the plan. Harm reduction advocates believe it’s likely to be voted through in the near future. The best hope for the state’s vapers is the Governor Phil Scott’s pledge to veto any new taxes; CASAA are asking vapers to contact Scott and ask him to uphold this promise.
Environmentalism – a new attack on vaping?
An article by a little-known tech journalist may be the first indicator of vaping coming under fire from a new direction. Writing on the Techly blog, Joe Frost singles out the popular JUUL e-cigarette as a potential threat to the environment. Frost argues that JUUL Labs’ advice on disposal of their products – to follow local recommendations – is inadequate. He then tries to link this to plastic pollution in the oceans.
The main flaw in Frost’s argument is that JUUL Labs are very clear on the fact that a used JUUL should be disposed off as an electronic device. Frost is claiming that JUUL could add to the patch of plastic waste in the Pacific Gyre, which is mostly made up of drinks bottles and discarded fishing gear. When it comes to plastic pollution in the oceans electronic devices are simply not part of the problem – but facts aren’t very important to anti-vaping activists.