Again the EU is told No

Regular readers will of course remember fondly that the EU held another “public consultation” recently, with the closing date of last month. This so-called public consultation was all about the taxation of manufactured tobacco products. Of course, being the EU and with the shiny new Tobacco Products Directive it just had to include the humble e-cigarette, despite (of course) neither the devices themselves, nor the liquid refills containing any actual manufactured tobacco at all – natch.

The final results are in, and as usual there’s a few talking points.

A large number of individuals responded – over 90% of the total number of responses came from the general public with only 3% coming from the industry, and a tiny 1% from the tobacco control NGO’s and other sockpuppets. Of course, tobacco controllers like to paint themselves as the David to the tobacco industry “goliath”, but looking at those figures that self-proclamation pales into insignificance when the public are motivated to respond.

Naturally, given the number of responders from the public – a large number of whom are vapers, to the tune of 67% – the EU have, once again been told, rather emphatically, “NO!” to the question of whether e-cigarettes should be subject to the ridiculous notion of adding tax to the products. Close to 90% of the replies, quite rightly told the EU to keep their overpaid, anti-democratic snouts out of the idea of using vaping as a revenue stream. After all, that is all the tax would be natch.

Somehow, I doubt that this result will pass muster within the anti-democratic ranks in the Union, after all they do have previous for ignoring public consultations when the results aren’t what they want to hear. The EU also has the capacity to become exceedingly concerned when the public do actually respond to these consultations because, as Florence Berteletti – from one of those ridiculous sockpuppet NGO’s – stated in an e-mail :

 “[…] we are alarmed that the majority of these responses (53,282 PB) do not seem to be responses from genuine, concerned citizens (oh really? what would you call them then? Oh that’s right, astroturf and shills). Based on previous on-line consultations organised by the European Commission, one can observe that the responses rarely exceed 500, with an average of 20 responses from citizens. (Well one would surmise that the EU doesn’t publish these so-called public consultations very…er.. publically if the public response rate is so low eh?)”

She goes much further (emphasis mine):

“[…] we would like to know how these responses will be analysed and what measures will be taken to ensure that this does not happen again. What happened made a mockery of the EU consultation system (naturally, can’t have those disgusting proles actually having a say now can they?!) and it also made a mockery of those genuine interested parties (mostly sockpuppet NGO’s natch) who respected the rationale for the Commission’s consultation process which is based on openness (really?!), accountability (bollocks!) and transparency (cough cough) so that the public and the European institutions are aware of the parties involved in the consultation processes and how the conduct themselves.”

She went as far as demanding that the thousands of responses submitted by the public be ignored because, as she blatantly suggests:

“[…] will remain vigilant against such “rent-a-mob” tactics by the tobacco industry, consistent with Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC.”

Of course, considering the huge numbers of people across the EU that use tobacco, snus and e-cigarettes is it any surprise that there would be a large response to the consultation? I’m not hedging my bets here, but will outright state that the EU will dismiss the overwhelming “No” answer to the tax on e-cigs question, just as they dismissed the results of the replies from the 53,282 on the TPD2 consultation.

As you can imagine, with a larger than the “average” responses (500 in total remember and only 20 from the public) the results document is brimming with table upon table of statistics:

So we have 4% using cigarettes (I wonder how many of those are dual users?) less than 1% each for cigars, cigarillos, make-your-own and “other” tobacco products, a smidge over 1% for fine-cut, 1% for water-pipe and heat-not-burn. That table alone will set alarm bells ringing at all the tobacco control NGO’s, considering that 67% are vapers, while only 31% didn’t use any tobacco product at all.

In each case, when asked “assuming a possible taxation of electronic cigarettes and refill containers, how should tax rate be, compared with X” the ratio was over 70% in each case:

  • Compared with cigarettes: 80%
  • Compared with Fine-cut: 74%
  • Compared with cigars/cigarillos: 74%
  • Compared with other smoking tobacco: 72%

One wonders whether the 3% on each of those categories that say “more or less equivalent” will get the final say, no doubt those responses are from the NGO’s that are “alarmed” at the above average consultation response rate.

However, one point that is a little disappointing – though I would submit hardly surprising – is that the theory of harm reduction, or even freedom of choice, doesn’t seem to extend to the new “heat not burn” technology. A point that is starkly illuminated when asked what a prospective (no doubt eventual) tax rate would look like with regards to HnB:

In most cases, the “much lower” response only gained approximately 22%. This isn’t exactly a surprise given that only 81 respondents identified as users of heat-not-burn products – which is to be expected as the market for the product is yet to truly establish itself in Europe just yet, after all PMI only launched iQOS in the UK at the end of last year. Not to mention the instant distrust of iQOS. As fellow blogger Dick Puddlecote illustrates in his post:

I get the nuances, but vapers have two arguments; freedom choice and health, and the health one relies heavily on the very powerful tobacco harm reduction aspect, especially when talking about recreational use. While it’s clear that many respondents were only interested in lending their support to vaping because that’s the device they use, it’s disappointing that so many are so distant from the harm reduction debate that they are not confident in saying that HnB excise should be set as lower or much lower than tobacco, which is quite obviously the case.

Y’see, the thing is the EU is likely to ignore the responses of the consultation, they did when 84% of the public said that the ban on snus be lifted in 2011, as a result of that dismissal only Sweden – which now has the lowest rate of male smoking globally, substantially lower than the EU – has access to snus (something which Swedish Match, along with the NNA are going to court to try and overturn), but it does make you wonder what the results would look like if snus was not banned across the EU. I guess we’ll never know.

Just as with the TPD2 consultation in 2011, a large proportion of responses to the taxation consultation came from Poland – which, by the way prompted the EU dismissing 82,000 responses on the vague premise that they were from the tobacco industry. It just goes to show that tobacco control really is in a David versus Goliath situation, but not against the tobacco industry. Instead, they are up against the public. It was true back in 2011, though as expected the EU listened to a few (likely the same 3% of sockpuppet NGO’s that responded this time) small authoritarian voices and perpetuated a stupid, evidence free ban on snus anyway. Once again, tobacco control is proving itself as a bunch of whiny, dictatorial liers.

This’ll be an interesting one to watch to prove whether or not the EU can actually be democratic doncha think? My bet is on not.