During the 1920s the main liberal Swedish political party split in two over the subject of alcohol prohibition. Perhaps it would have been better had the illiberal, prohibitionist element never been allowed back in when they joined back together in the 1930s, along with other smaller liberal parties, to form the Folkpartiet Liberalerna. It certainly might have prevented the sort of batshit-crazy thinking demonstrated in this opinion article, where two Folkpartiet MPs call for a generic tax on nicotine containing products, including e-cigarettes and (perhaps even more bizarrely) nicotine gum and patches.
Taking inspiration from Ed Miliband’s “point at things and tax them” image, which itself has formed almost every policy decision taken in Sweden for nigh on a hundred years, they point at things with nicotine in them an demand new taxes on them – over and above the 25% sales tax that nearly all products and services sold in Sweden attract.
“You could describe e-cigarettes as a type of smoking where one of the dangerous elements – the inhalation of burning tobacco leaf – has been removed,”
they intone with a level of scientific insight that while technically correct, won’t have the Nobel committee rushing to reshuffle their shortlist any day soon. That’s because inhaling burning tobacco leaf is the only dangerous element of smoking, and when that element is removed you’ve not got much to go on in terms of scary things happening. In fact you haven’t got anything at all. Because as we learned this week, when you measure the in vitro toxicity profile of e-cigarettes you discover that they are a bit safer. When I say a bit, I actually mean 6,000 times safer.
So what reasons have our intrepid liberals scraped from the barrel of Public Health industry wibble?
“Nicotine-containing-products are made with nicotine from the same tobacco plants that are the raw ingredient of snus and cigarettes.”
Er, I’ll forget you said that, just to see where you’re going with this.
“Which means we can’t rule out the effect of long-term use on the human body.”
Er, yes, we can actually. Call Carl Philips or Brad Rodu. Right now, before you make fools of yourselve..
“We know that some former smokers and snusers use NRT longer than the recommended 12 weeks”
Oh good grief, make them stop…please make them stop.
“NRT products are now produced in ever-more pleasing and attractive formats…”
I’m losing the will to live here folks.
Put. The. Pen. Down. Please, before it’s too la…
“..and in nicotine strengths that are often higher than delivered by cigarettes or snus.”
You’ve conflated nicotine content with nicotine delivery and got yourselves all confused there. But hey, you are politicians and not scientists after all.
“Selective taxes on tobacco are an important source of income for state finances.”
No kidding. But they’re there for a reason right? It’s about health isn’t it? Please tell me it’s about health!
“It would be more consistent to put a selective tax on all products that contain nicotine, including e-cigarettes.”
So it’s not about health then. It can’t be about health, otherwise the tax on snus would reflect the relative risk of using snus compared with smoking. If it were about health, then snus tax would be more than 99% less than the tax on cigarettes. But it’s not. In fact this government has just reinforced its bizarre attitude to health in general, and tobacco harm reduction in particular, by raising snus tax by twice as much as cigarette tax (12% compared with 6%). So why are you so keen to introduce a nicotine tax?
“It’s high time we looked at tobacco taxation. In a couple of years these developments could overtake us and ruin tobacco tax (income).”
I’m not even going to dignify that comment with a comment.