Electronic cigarettes may need to be taxed at higher rates, European Union finance ministers agreed on Tuesday, as “vaping” increases in popularity.
E-cigarettes in most EU states are exempt from excise duties, which are levied on traditional tobacco products in addition to sales tax. That means they are usually cheaper.
A 2012 poll showed that 20 percent of European smokers had used e-cigarettes, which some see as a step towards giving up smoking altogether. Sceptics say e-cigarettes may promote or prolong tobacco use, rather than encouraging people to kick the habit.
All major tobacco companies sell e-cigarettes as well as the traditional variety.
With an eye on both state revenues and public health considerations, ministers meeting in Brussels said the exemption from excise duties should be reconsidered, and asked the European Commission to decide by 2017 whether to propose increasing taxation on e-cigarettes.
The Commission, the EU body which draws up legislative proposals, is likely to take a cautious approach, a spokeswoman said.
“It would be extremely unlikely that we would propose to apply the same taxation levels on e-cigarettes as those applied to cigarettes,” the spokeswoman said.