Taxing and regulating e-cigarettes like tobacco is bad public policy

The argument that e-cigs are a gateway to tobacco is flawed. A recent study found that out of more than 9,000 11-16 year-olds surveyed, less than 2 percent had ever vaped, and almost all that had vaped had already smoked tobacco before. This year’s National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that tobacco smoking continues to decline among American high school students, even though vaping has increased. It seems odd that lawmakers want to tax and regulate an activity that is weaning people off of tobacco, and to do so more stringently than tobacco itself in many cases.

There is scant scientific evidence on the long-term health effects of vaping. But studies have already proven that e-cig vapor contains significantly lower levels of toxins compared to cigarette smoke. The Food and Drug Administration is funding $275 million in research into e-cigs, but in the meantime they’ve said that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco.

Similarly, the American Heart Association has stated that e-cigs “present an opportunity for harm reduction if smokers use them as substitutes for cigarettes.” And there are countless stories of people who have gone from being heavy smokers to just vapers by using e-cigs.

Read the rest at the Washington Examiner.

Three complaints about Tax Freedom Day, and why they are all total rubbish

[Photo Credit: LendingMemo]

UK libertarians and fiscal conservatives spent much of May 31st drawing attention to the fact that it was Tax Freedom Day. This is the first day of the year when the average person stops working for the government and starts earning for themselves. Their political opponents unsurprisingly criticised the concept. These objections took various forms, but I especially want to debunk the three most common complaints:

1. Without taxes, one would not have the state infrastructure needed to create wealth in the first place.

This argument is an obvious straw man. Everyone (except anarchists) accepts that at least some state infrastructure is needed to provide the foundations necessary for wealth creation. However, there is an extremely strong case to be made that libertarian fiscal reforms will increase wealth creation, as well as address some of the distributional issues that arise from a dysfunctional tax system. Indeed, alleviating the tax burden on the poorest individuals in the United Kingdom should be a top priority for the newly-elected Conservative government. One can argue that the market is better suited to wealth creation in certain areas without being an anarchist!

2. The amount of tax paid by the ‘average taxpayer’ is statistically skewed by proponents of Tax Freedom Day.

The UK has a predominantly progressive taxation system. Therefore, May 31st does not accurately reflect when the average Joe actually stops working for the government; the increased tax burden on higher-income earners pushes the statistical mean further into the year. This is all true. However, as Kate Andrews writing for City A.M. has highlighted, “the purpose of Tax Freedom Day is not to calculate to-the-penny what one personally is paying out in tax, but rather to illustrate just how burdensome the tax system really is.” It’s a way of translating the tax/GDP ratio into more relatable, human terms.

3. Tax Freedom Day contains hidden political assumptions that distort public debate.

Paul Nightingale has stated in The Guardian that Tax Freedom Day “…embod[ies] hidden political assumptions in ways that are very difficult for journalists and readers to detect and unpick.” This insults the intelligence of journalists and readers alike. When virtually every article and think-piece produced in relation to Tax Freedom Day explicitly calls for adopting a more libertarian taxation policy, one would be hard-pressed to argue that the free market principles behind TFD are “hidden.”