Mark Oates 29 April 2023


Whatever you think about the pros and cons of Brexit, if you’re trying to stop smoking, leaving has some benefits for Britain. The EU’s deranged and misguided attempts to reduce smoking have extended to punishing tobacco harm-reduction products, including nicotine pouches. 

While the UK will be spared this madness from EU regulators, those living in EU countries won’t be as lucky. 

Let’s explore this strange move from Brussels and try to figure out what’s actually happening.

What is Brussels up to?

The EU wants to be “smokefree” by 2040. That means reducing smoking rates from around 20% to a target of 5% or below. That in itself is admirable. However, as the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The EU’s plan will involve increasing excise duty on cigarettes. Each EU member state has individual tax levels on tobacco products. These duties are pretty low in some areas, such as eastern Europe. 

As a result, the EU wants to increase the minimum excise duties to reduce smoking. Currently, the minimum sits at €1.80 for a pack of 20. The draft European Commission document plans to increase this figure to €3.60. These changes mean the end to the day of €3 packs of cigarettes in some European nations.

The worrying part is that the bloc-wide tax increase will also target novel tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches.

Why is the EU increasing excise duty on tobacco products?

There are a few factors at play that are influencing the EU.

For starters, we need to “follow the money”. Statistics show that these changes will bring an extra €9.3bn in tax for EU member states. 

Next up, the popularity of harm-reduction products has irked the EU. Nicotine pouches and vapes have been instrumental in reducing smoking rates; however, they are occasionally used by younger citizens too. The EU mistakenly believes these products are a gateway to tobacco smoking, despite any convincing data to back up these beliefs.

Thirdly, the ideological influence of the World Health Organisation and its paymaster Micheal Bloomberg has poised the EU’s stance on tobacco harm reduction. Instead of seeing products like nicotine pouches and vaping as a way to help people access better health outcomes, they think they should be taxed just like cigarettes.

, The EU’s Demented Attack on Harm Reduction, The Daily Pouch
Michael Bloomberg: his vast wealth funds the WHO and supports anti harm reduction policies in the field of smoking, ultimately this increases smoking rates and causes more health harms.

Why is the EU misguided in targeting tobacco pouches and vapes?

Studies show that increasing taxes on cigarettes can stop people from buying them. However, it doesn’t solve nicotine use overnight. It can often lead to the poorest in our society spending an even higher proportion of their income on cigarettes. What it can do is encourages smokers to seek out cheaper alternatives.

Some of these alternatives are things like nicotine pouches. However, if you raise taxes and prices of these tobacco alternatives, you make them less attractive to people who want to stop smoking. Guiding citizens towards harm reduction requires creating a price differential with the most harmful products being more expensive than the less harmful alternatives.

Another downside of misguided policies like these is that it supports black-market cigarettes. If you price smokers out of the market (for legal cigarettes and harm-reduction products), they will seek cheaper sources of their chosen product. However, these alternatives are unregulated and therefore come with added risk to the user.

The other thing to consider is that products like nicotine pouches and vapes have significantly reduced smoking rates since their introduction. If the EU were serious about reducing smoking rates across their nations, they would acknowledge this fact.

Final thoughts

The EU’s fumbling attempts to achieve its “smokefree” targets by 2040 have seen them target nicotine pouches and other harm-reduction products. 

The obvious problem here is that these alternatives don’t produce smoke, which is the cause of the lion’s share of poor health outcomes associated with nicotine use.

Individual countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands are even going out of their way to ban these life saving products.

This situation is a disaster for our European sisters and brothers who want to give up cigarettes with the support of harm-reduction products like nicotine pouches. Get the word out and fight this madness.