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Home » Government Double Down on Discouraging Smokers from Quitting: What Are They Smoking?

Government Double Down on Discouraging Smokers from Quitting: What Are They Smoking?

John Dunne, Director General of UKVIA

The simplicity of disposable vapes mean that they are often the starting point for smokers trying to quit and have helped millions to successfully do so, but the government has decided to ban them. One of the motivations for giving up smoking is cost and vaping offers smokers not just a way out of a habit that kills 250 people every day, but an annual saving of over £2,000. Now the government wants to tax e-liquid, effectively reducing this incentive. It is hard to understand the government’s logic at this point.

As the Institute of Economic Affairs put it, “This is a deeply cynical cash grab from the Chancellor. Forget sin taxes, this is a saint tax. Vapers did what the government wanted and gave up smoking. They are now being punished for it.”

The government will introduce the tax from 1 October 2026. The rates will be £1.00 per 10ml for nicotine free liquids, £2.00 per 10ml on liquids that contain 0.1-10.9 mg nicotine per ml, and £3.00 per 10ml on liquids that contain 11mg or more per ml.

Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death on the planet, killing 7 million people every year. Vaping is 95% less harmful and proven to be the best way to quit and yet the UK government are actively discouraging their use. By using nicotine strength as a guide to tax levels, this tax directly discriminates against heavy smokers, the ones most likely to die from their habit.

While the number of children who regularly vape has remained relatively static (those who have ‘tried’ vaping has increased significantly) it will always be too many and urgent action is needed to sort the problem out. And it isn’t rocket science – or a tax on vapes. We need to properly enforce the law that makes it illegal to sell vapes to children; we need big fines for rogue retailers and a licensing scheme for vape shops which will allow Trading Standards to do their jobs more effectively. Just such a licensing scheme was presented to Parliament in February and its authors estimate it would raise over £50m to help Trading Standards enforce the law.

Experts believe that the ban on disposables will turbo-charge an already active black market in vapes. A new tax on vapes will undoubtedly make the situation even worse.  But more importantly perhaps, for every smoker who is discouraged from quitting and every vaper who returns to smoking, that could be a life lost. Vaping saves the NHS millions every year, the government should not be turning their back on smokers for short term political gain.

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