Nanny State Index 2018: Nicotine Supplement
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The Index tracks over-bearing, paternalistic lifestyle regulation across the EU in four categories: alcohol, e-cigarettes, food/soft drinks and tobacco. Nanny state interventions in these areas are invariably promoted on grounds of health and yet it is difficult to see how clamping down on vaping benefits public health. Paternalistic arguments can be made for interventions designed to deter people from drinking, smoking and eating too much, but laws which deter the use of e-cigarettes do not just restrict liberty, they are also likely to harm health.
There is a growing consensus that vaping is at least 95 per cent safer than cigarette smoking (Royal College of Physicians 2016) and the overwhelming majority of people who use e-cigarettes regularly are current or former smokers. E-cigarettes are rarely used by young people who have not previously smoked (Bauld et al. 2017) and claims about vaping acting as a ‘gateway’ to smoking appear to be unfounded. In the EU, fewer than 0.5 per cent of those who have never smoked use e-cigarettes (Eurobarometer 2017: 105), but many smokers have used them as a permanent substitute for combustible cigarettes. In Britain, the smoking rate has fallen at an unusually fast pace since 2012 when e-cigarettes became mainstream consumer products after several years of stasis (Snowdon 2017).
There is significant variation in the regulation and taxation of e-cigarettes and vaping across Europe. In some respects, trends are going in a positive direction. Until 2016, several countries banned the sale of nicotine e-cigarette fluid, but all EU countries now allow the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping fluids as consumer products. Norway is expected to complete its legalisation of the products in mid-2018, leaving Switzerland as the only European country with a ban in place.