Means of access to nicotine or withdrawal aid: opinions differ on the dangers or the advantages of vaping. As part of the consultation on the taxation of electronic cigarettes, this point remains to be clarified.
The question of whether electronic cigarettes are indeed an appropriate way to quit smoking or, on the contrary, a way to start consuming nicotine, is not definitively settled. The Federal Council admits this in its explanatory report on the amendment to the law on tobacco taxation.
In Switzerland, a scientific study funded by the National Fund is underway to clarify this point, but its results are not yet available. In Europe too, opinions are very divergent. If the United Kingdom promotes the e-cigarette as an aid to quit smoking, Swiss prevention organizations fear the opposite effect, can we read in the report.
On the other hand, opinions converge with regard to the health risks: even if long-term studies are lacking, the electronic cigarette has a potential for harmfulness up to 95% lower than the traditional cigarette, according to specialists.
CDS wants to reduce the incentive
The government therefore wants to take this lower potential for harm into account in its draft revision of the law on tobacco taxation, the consultation period for which expired on Thursday. It provides for a lower tax for liquids consumed in e-cigarettes than for conventional cigarettes.
The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Health Directors (CDS) considers it important to reduce the incentive to consume, especially among young people, by setting the amount of tax. Because although less dangerous for health, electronic cigarettes have a high potential for addiction.
CDS therefore welcomes the introduction of the tax proposed by the Federal Council. According to her, lower taxation of e-cigarettes compared to traditional tobacco products is wise, as it would encourage smokers to switch to these products.
Wait for the study
While the Lung League and the Swiss Association for the Prevention of Smoking stress the importance of the preventive effect of the tobacco tax, they consider it far too low: according to them, the consumption of tobacco and nicotine in Switzerland can only be reduced, in addition to advertising restrictions and prevention work, by a higher tax.
Furthermore, the long-term health risk of e-cigarettes is not known, they argue. As long as there is no clear evidence on the possible consequences, the precautionary principle applies.
The PS also asks the Federal Council to present a proposal ‘which takes into account all tobacco and nicotine products’. For him, it is advisable to wait for the results of the study by the National Fund and to integrate them into the setting of new taxes.
Black market risk
The Swiss Vape Trade Association (SVTA), which represents traders and manufacturers of e-cigarettes, liquids and accessories, thinks the opposite: given the reduced harmfulness of 95% of e -cigarettes, a proportionately lower tax would be appropriate.
A tax increase as proposed by the Federal Council would also make the black market flourish, which would be a significant risk for consumers, in the same way as ‘house mixes’, according to the SVTA. Added to this is the possibility of easily importing nicotine-based products from abroad.
The association receives the support of the SVP: for the party, given the lower risk profile, the superimposition of e-cigarettes is not acceptable and does not correspond to the will of the legislator.
Multiplied by 16
The question of the amount of taxes on nicotine in electronic cigarettes is therefore far from unanimous. In its draft, the Federal Council provides for example a tax of 2 cents per milligram of nicotine for so-called open vaping systems with refillable containers (i.e. around 4 francs per bottle).
For refillable containers, health organizations want a tax of 10 cents of nicotine per milliliter, which would multiply by 16 the price of a shot of nicotine added to the liquid for vaping, i.e. 24.6 francs instead of around 1.5 francs today.
For its part, the SVTA only wants a tax of up to 0.1 cents per milligram of nicotine, an actual increase of 20 cents for a bottle of nicotine in refillable vaping systems.