Budget 2021 – call for a new tax on e-cigarettes

By June Shannon Policy News   |   6th Oct 2020

The Irish Heart Foundation has called for a new tax on e-cigarettes and an increase in the cost of 20 cigarettes to €20 by 2025

The Irish Heart Foundation has called on the Government to introduce a new tax on e-cigarettes in Budget 2021 to protect young people from nicotine addiction, and to raise the cost of 20 cigarettes to €20 by 2025.

In its pre-budget submission released today (Tuesday 06th of October) the Irish Heart Foundation has urged the Government to introduce excise tax of 6 cent per millilitre of e-cigarette liquid – which would add in the region of 10-25 per cent to the price of e-cigarettes.

This is below taxes in other European countries, such as Finland and Portugal, which have a rate of 30 cent per millilitre, however it is considered high enough to have an impact on children.

The Irish Heart Foundation also called on the Government to increase the price of the most popular price category of cigarettes from its current level of €13.70 to €20 through a series of five annual tax increases.

“ We believe the excise tax proposed in the Programme for Government must begin to price these devices out of the purchasing reach of children and adolescents,"

Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy , The Irish Heart Foundation.

“We believe the excise tax proposed in the Programme for Government must begin to price these devices out of the purchasing reach of children and adolescents, but remain affordable for adults who are using them as a smoking cessation device,” said Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation.

“Any e-cigarette excise tax must be accompanied by a larger increase in tobacco excise tax to ensure users are deterred from moving back to traditional cigarettes and roll-your-own as the balance of current evidence suggests they are significantly more harmful to health.”

According to the Irish Heart Foundation, measures to increase the cost of vaping are now unavoidable in the wake of research indicating that young people who start using e-cigarettes are four times more likely to move on to using cigarettes.

“The smoking rate among 15-16-year-olds has been cut from 41 to 12 per cent over a 20-year period. We cannot give up these hard-won health gains by allowing a new generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through an e-cigarette industry that is largely controlled by big tobacco,” said Mr Macey.

“Some 22 per cent of teenagers in Ireland have used e-cigarettes and while the international industry claims they are only intended to help long-term smokers to quit, branding that features cartoon characters, flavours such as candyfloss and bubblegum, and aggressive marketing tactics on social media platforms used by teenagers show this claim is preposterous.”

“The number of current smokers in Ireland is continuing to fall, but to achieve a Tobacco-Free Ireland we need further net reductions of around 100,000 smokers each year for the next five years,"

Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy , The Irish Heart Foundation

Mr Macey added that evidence has shown that tax increases on e-cigarettes were effective in reducing their use by young people, however, the Irish Heart Foundation did not want these increases to be of a magnitude that could push smokers who are currently trying to quit, back to cigarettes.

In its submission ahead of Budget Day next Tuesday, the 13th of October, the Irish Heart Foundation said that 17 per cent of the population over 16, or some 680,000 people, are still classed as current smokers and more had to be done to meet the health objective of a Tobacco-Free Ireland, ( a smoking prevalence of less than 5 per cent ) by 2025.

“The number of current smokers in Ireland is continuing to fall, but to achieve a Tobacco-Free Ireland we need further net reductions of around 100,000 smokers each year for the next five years to hit the target,” said Mr Macey.

“A dual approach of high tax increases, which the evidence shows is the most effective way of reducing smoking rates, along with much better support for the vast majority of smokers who want to quit, is vital if the Government is serious about hitting this target.”

The Irish Heart Foundation has also called for increased funding to help smokers quit, including medications, smoking cessation services, the national quitline, and mass media campaigns which currently totals €11.8 million, up to €50 million a year.

“Nowhere near enough is being done to support the 80 per cent of smokers who want to quit. The amount spent on cessation services is less than 1 per cent of around €1 billion they hand over in tobacco tax each year,” Mr Macey stated.

In Budget 2021 the Irish Heart Foundation is calling on the Government to take 23 actions under four themes to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the rates of death and disability from heart disease and stroke. For more information and to read a copy of the submission please see here.

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