An FDA pod vape ban would only serve to harm consumers

Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director of the Consumer Choice Center calls Gottlieb’s comments ridiculous, especially considering this would remove a product from the shelves that has become so important in helping smokers quit.

“A proposal to ban pod-based vape devices is probably one of the most anti-consumer and anti-health initiatives proposed by this FDA,” said Ossowski.

“The mechanisms already exist to enforce the legal purchasing age of these products. Any retailer caught selling to minors should immediately be punished, not the millions of Americans who have transitioned to using pod-based vaping devices to get their nicotine from a less harmful source without the combustion of cigarettes,” said Ossowski.

“Pods are only one version of vaping devices and they’ve been singled out because they’re popular and effective for adult smokers. Rather than focusing their ire on products that have legitimately helped former smokers prolong their lives, they should seek to better educate youth communities on the concerns of taking up vaping.

“The youth smoking rate is at an all-time low, and that is thanks in part to the less harmful vaping technologies that have provided a market solution to the very real problem of tobacco and nicotine addiction.

“The FDA under Gottlieb’s tenure has busied itself with making e-cigarettes and vaping technologies less accessible than conventional cigarettes, and for that, he will not be remembered well.

“Consumers want better and healthier alternatives, and vaping devices have provided that. Large-scale bans would do more harm than good,” said Ossowski.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Увеличение “куриных” квот позволит европейцам питаться дешевле.

От позитивного решения ЕП выиграет европейский потребитель, который получит большой выбор продукта по низкой цене. Об этом заявила представитель “Центра выбора потребителя” (Consumer Choice Centre) Мария Чапля, передает Food and Drink International.

Согласно предварительному соглашению, Еврокомиссия планирует увеличить импортную квоту на украинскую курятину – с 20 тыс. тонн до 70 тыс. тонн в год, напомнила Чапля.

“Несмотря на то, что цифры кажутся многообещающими, малые тарифные квоты по своей сути вредны и ущемляют выбор потребителей. Ограничивая количество импорта куриной грудки, поступающей на рынок ЕС, ЕС создает искажения на рынке, что приводит к снижению благосостояния потребителей.

Проще говоря, свободная торговля – это обмен, который позволяет каждой стороне использовать свое преимущество и извлекать выгоду из преимущества другой”, – заявила она.

Выгоду от увеличения импортных квот получат европейские потребители, говорит Чапля.

“Европейские потребители могут получать значительно больший запас куриных грудок по более низкой цене”, – подчеркивает она.

В то же время результатом сделки могут быть недовольны европейские птицеводы, говорит представитель Центра.

“И здесь очень важно не позволить им помешать этим переговорам”, – отметила она.

В идеале, ЕС не должен вводить торговые ограничения в виде тарифных квот, так как это бьет по потребителям.

“Вместо этого нужно способствовать свободному обмену”, – резюмировала Чапля.

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Збільшення “курячих” квот дозволить європейцям харчуватися дешевше

КИЇВ. 19 березня. УНН. Незабаром Україна отримає шанс збільшити експорт курятини в Європу. Це станеться, якщо Європарламент схвалить домовленість сторін про зміну угоди про зону вільної торгівлі. Від позитивного рішення ЄП виграє європейський споживач, який отримає великий вибір продукту за низькою ціною. Про це заявила представник “Центру вибору споживача” (Consumer Choice Centre) Марія Чапля, передає УНН з посиланням на Food and Drink International.

Згідно з попередньою угодою, Єврокомісія планує збільшити імпортну квоту на українську курятину – з 20 тис. тонн до 70 тис. тонн в рік, нагадала Чапля.

“Не дивлячись на те, що цифри здаються багатообіцяючими, малі тарифні квоти по своїй суті шкідливі і обмежують вибір споживачів. Обмежуючи кількість імпорту курячої грудки, що надходить на ринок ЄС, ЄС створює спотворення на ринку, що призводить до зниження добробуту споживачів.

Простіше кажучи, вільна торгівля – це обмін, який дозволяє кожній стороні використовувати свою перевагу і отримувати вигоду з переваги іншої”, – заявила вона.

Вигоду від збільшення імпортних квот отримають європейські споживачі, говорить Чапля.

“Європейські споживачі можуть отримувати значно більший запас курячих грудок за нижчою ціною”, – наголошує вона.

У той же час, результатом угоди можуть бути незадоволені європейські птахівники, каже представник Центру.

“І тут дуже важливо не дозволити їм перешкодити цим переговорам”, – зазначила вона.

В ідеалі, ЄС не повинен вводити торгові обмеження у вигляді тарифних квот, так як це б’є по споживачах.

“Замість цього потрібно сприяти вільному обміну”, – резюмувала Чапля.

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Cuomo’s Out of Control Craving for an Opioid Slush Fund

Sometimes a bad idea is a bad idea, no matter how you package it. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying again, after his $600 million opioid tax was slapped down in December by an Obama appointed federal judge.

Proponents of the earlier tax scheme pointed to a key provision which forbade manufacturers from passing along the cost to patients. This was an essential element of the plan  — who in their right mind would want to punish patients whose doctors legitimately prescribe opioids for acute pain?  

Even supporters of sin-taxes recognize the folly of squeezing vulnerable patients to pay for an opioid crisis now fueled by the illegal fentanyl trade.

In December, U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Polk Failla ruled against “the method by which the act extracts payments from opioid manufacturers and distributors.” Because the law prevented manufacturers from passing costs on to patients, even in other states, the court found that the punitive tax was unconstitutional.

As a result of the ruling, Governor Cuomo was in a bind. He could have simply abandoned the cash grab, or he could have tweaked the law to make it constitutional by permitting the tax to be passed along to pain patients. Unfortunately, he went with the latter. Like an addict, he went for the fix, regardless of the harmful consequences.

It begs the question, why did the governor propose, and the legislature pass, an illegal funding mechanism in the first place, especially since treatment and prevention are urgently needed and politically popular?

There’s an obvious reason: Albany lacks fiscal discipline. Despite very high tax rates, there’s no money left to fund legitimate programs.

But the real reason Governor Cuomo first relied on an unconstitutional tax was that it was less bizarre than the alternative he’s now chosen.

Taxing legal opioid prescriptions isn’t just bad politics, it’s bad policy. “Taxing patients in pain” wouldn’t make a popular campaign slogan. And because legitimate opioid prescriptions are no longer driving opioid abuse, taxing pain sufferers to pay for treatment and prevention of a black-market fentanyl fueled problem has no rational justification.

It’s not a tax on the bad actors, its a tax on the most sympathetic ones: pain patients. It’s also a tax on the government because for over a decade Medicare has been the single largest payer for prescription opioids.

The tax was constitutionally flawed in 2018, but the legal “fix” exposes the broader gambit as the cash grab it was from day one. Funding a slush fund on the backs of today’s pain patients is foolish. Patients didn’t cause the epidemic and taxing them won’t fix it or prevent addiction.

Instead, states should address the epidemic by tackling the issues in a constructive, and when possible, bipartisan manner. Despite the political rancor, Congress came together last year to pass The SUPPORT act, signed by President Trump in October. The law, which garnered nearly unanimous bipartisan support, was lauded by the American Medical Association for touching “on almost every aspect of the epidemic,” including stemming the flow of fentanyl through the mail, supporting research for new non-addictive painkillers, and targeted funding for prevention and treatment programs.

Critics of the plan aren’t opioid crisis deniers. We believe that there are more sensible, compassionate — and effective — tools to address the problem than simply taxing pain patients to conjure up money for a so-called “opioid stewardship fund.” If there’s one thing Albany has taught us, it’s that the state isn’t a good steward of slush funds, regardless of the severity of the problem at hand.

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center.

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About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts. Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

Ah … because oil is the problem, eateries (and patrons) pay the price

Jeff Stier of the Consumer Choice Center says all Americans are affected by what happens in the oceans and should all work to reduce pollution – but that doesn’t justify banning all uses of products, he argues.S

“And it’s not only to ban plastics because they claim it winds up in the ocean,” he adds, “but [also] because it’s petroleum-based – and that’s what’s been driving the anti-plastics campaigns for a long time.”

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About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts. Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

Yorkshire Post letters

Social media has transformed our daily lives in a variety of ways: from business promotion to interpersonal communication. However, due to its extensive scope, it is easy to forget that it is not forced upon us in any way. Similar to the consumption of sugary products or junk food, to use or not to use social media is a choice. Where there is a choice, there is always a responsibility. 

By seeking to protect young people from the detrimental health effects of social media, the Government is also protecting them from the ability to chose. To justify the need for government intervention, Chris Elmore MP, called social media a “lawless landscape” where children work and play online. No one is questioning the importance of children’s mental health in our fast-changing world. The question to ask is why does the government believe it is its responsibility, not parents?

My 10-year old sister used to spend most of her time on social media, and the moment I found it extremely worrying, I suggested that my parents limited it to an hour per day. After a few days of consistent limited usage of social media, what the Government would call “an addiction” disappeared. 

She started going out with actual friends and felt much happier. The tax will therefore only put another burden on social media companies without solving the actual problem – which is parental responsibility.

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Taxing the sky: the EU’s next attack on consumers

As the back and forth on Brexit dominates political debate in the UK, the European Union, as ever, is working on new ways to make everyday life more irksome, intrusive, and overpriced.

In May last year, the Belgian newspaper De Standaard reported: “here and there, it is suggested that environmental and health impacts should play a role in the introduction of a European minimum excise duty on kerosene”, which is Brussels-speak for: “this is going to become a proposal in the near future”. Now the proposal is on the table.

The Dutch government is suggesting a €7 air travel tax on all flights to and from the EU. Even after the United Kingdom leaves the bloc, this will have just as much of an impact on British consumers and companies as it will on everyone else.

According to The Hague, Europe has a problem with too many low-cost leisure flights, and a tax would reduce the incentives for this consumption. Dutch secretary of state for finance, Menno Snel, also points out that the measure would bring in €200 million for the Treasury. But you can be sure that those two things are completely unrelated – the proposal is clearly all for the good of the environment.

France, Belgium, and Finland are now supporting the Dutch proposal in the European council. Luxembourg said that it would not oppose the tax if all member states get on board. But the selection of countries coming out in favour of the measure is telling. In Helsinki, you’d be hard-pressed to get a pint of beer for €7, but in member states such as Poland, Croatia, or Romania, this is a lot of money. Not coincidentally, the countries whose citizens can already afford this kind of travel are not going to be the hardest hit. There is a clear east-west divide, yet it’s just brushed over as an irrelevance.

Take a practical example. You can now book a return flight in May from London Luton to Kraków, Poland for a total of £65. Since the tax applies per flight segment, you’d have €14 added to your total bill, or almost 20 per cent of your total ticket cost. This is a considerable part of the price and could be devastating for low-income consumers looking to visit their family, partners, or attend a funeral or wedding. Moreover, taking money off consumers while government officials jet around in business class is not merely upsetting, it’s crass.

Of course, this isn’t a new form of lobbying. The European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) has long argued for increased taxation on air travel. The group calls air travel “undertaxed” despite taxes having risen in the last seven years. Here, again, the environmental argument doesn’t seem to be the only one in their sight:

T&E analysis has found that new measures such as a carbon tax on motor fuels, aviation kerosene duty, and ending the VAT exemption for flights within and from Europe would raise more than €50 billion annually.”

However, as it’s a tax proposal, it needs the unanimous approval of member states in order to pass, and could, therefore, be blocked by states with a lot of low-income consumers, tourist destinations, or countries such as Ireland which host low-cost carriers like Ryanair.

The question is whether those countries will negotiate trade-offs on other projects, or perhaps they may even feel bound by the 2015 Paris climate change agreement to approve the measure and then blame it on the bureaucrats in Brussels.

The whole debate, however, raises a serious risk that air travel will increasingly fall victim of the environmentalist police, whose bans and taxes are bound to start affecting consumers very soon. They should be stopped before it is too late.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Five reasons why Europe lags behind on high-speed internet

Connectivity and low latency times are crucial for economic progress in developed states. While European policymakers don’t shy away from grand plans to keep the continent competitive, the essential ingredient for a successful digital strategy is the creation of a real digital single market within the European Union. Here are five major reasons why Europe is lagging behind the United States and parts of Asia, along with a possible solution.

A lack of incentives for long-lasting investments in broadband

Countries like Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom see broadband spectrum mainly as a cash cow for public finances, and not as necessary infrastructure for economic growth in the information age.

As such, broadband spectrum is auctioned off to the highest-bidding companies which typically keep that spectrum for 20 years. Given the fact that telecom companies paid over €600 per resident in these countries, they would have to charge €30 a year per user just to amortize the spectrum license fees they paid before losing the license after two decades.

Those lucky companies that win the spectrum auctions have very little wiggle room to invest in building out the network after paying an average of €50bn per market for the licenses.

Thankfully, the EU recently reformed and partially harmonized the process of awarding spectrum for data to telecommunications providers. But instead of awarding spectrum permanently to the auction winners – and therefore creating a secondary spectrum market – they mainly increased the usage time to 25 years.

Europe’s export powerhouse falls behind digitally

Germany, the EU’s largest member state, has one of the worst developed broadband accessibility in the entire economic area. One out of 11 households does not receive a 3G signal in their home. Only Slovakia ranks lower. One out of nine rural households do not have access to broadband DSL internet, and merely 65 per cent of households have access to the internet at a rate faster than 100Mbps.

Germany’s southern neighbour, Switzerland, on the other hand, provides nigh-on 100 per cent access to speeds beyond 100Mbps. Germany’s weak performance when it comes to broadband infrastructure is especially surprising given that, as the EU country with the fifth densest population, network infrastructure per square kilometre should be much cheaper and easier to improve.

Market entry barriers within the single market

Despite having a single market, there are still many barriers for telecom companies based in one EU country that wishing to enter the market in another member state. Pre-selections by regulators on which companies are even allowed to bid for spectrum licenses, complicated and dispersed application procedures for licenses, and other red tape hinder innovative competitors from entering telecom markets.

The European commission needs to be bold in breaking through these barriers in order to enable consolidation of telecommunication and broadband markets in Europe. This would allow consumers faster connections at lower prices.

The missed opportunity of 5G

A report from last year estimates that, by 2025, half of all American households will have access to ultra high-speed 5G network technology. In contrast, the figure is 31 per cent in Europe. Indeed, some of its major members like Germany and Italy will most likely have even lower levels of coverage due to their spectrum auctioning systems.

By overcharging network providers for spectrum licenses, governments trade long-term economic competitiveness for quick household surpluses. While fiscal stability is something governments should strive for, they should at the same time not take broadband spectrum and future technologies hostage for these purposes, but instead fix their structural overspending.

Politicians fall in love with the wrong technologies

Instead of merely defining a framework for innovation, many policymakers and regulators too often bet on specific technologies and demand that companies use them.

One recent example of this was the EU’s push to determine ITS-G5 technology as the way for autonomous vehicles to communicate with surrounding cars. A more innovation-friendly solution would be to simply define the maximum tolerated latency of the communication and then let various solutions compete on the market against each other. The EU mandate for specific catalytic converters on motor vehicles displays the same worrying trend.

It’s hard to imagine that the DVD would have emerged if governments had mandated that all video material be stored on VHS cassettes. A “tech-neutral” approach to regulation allows consumers to access newer and better technologies without having to wait for legislative changes.

Europe still has a long way to go before it can fully achieve a digital single market for its hundreds of millions of consumers. It must now turn its attention to breaking down barriers within the single market and reducing artificial costs for network providers. Both would reflect positively on the network quality and phone bill of consumers. Upcoming decades will be defined by digital innovations, and Europe must adopt smart policies to keep up for the sake of its consumers.

Fred Roeder is Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at https://1828uk.com/2019/03/19/five-reasons-why-europe-lags-behind-on-high-speed-internet-2/

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Broad Coalition calls on Congress to reclaim its authority on tariffs

Arlington, VA – A coalition of 30 organizations, including the Consumer Choice Center, led by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce released a letter today encouraging lawmakers to reclaim their tariff authority, which has been delegated to the executive branch.
Read the letter HERE
In the letter, the groups write:
“As the Senate Finance Committee begins its important work of considering legislation related to tariffs, we write to urge you to include important priorities in any proposal put forth by the Committee.
“Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides Congress with ‘the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises.’ Over the years, however, some authority related to tariffs has been delegated to the executive branch. As a result, the president has unilaterally imposed tariffs – which are taxes on Americans – on more than $300 billion in imports last year without the explicit approval of the peoples’ elected representatives in Congress.
“Congress now has an opportunity to reclaim some of this tariff authority, with the Senate Finance Committee leading the way. … As the committee continues to review and craft legislative proposals, we stand ready to assist and support you in this endeavor.”


UK’s junk food advertising consultation decried as ‘patronising’

But Bill Wirtz, Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choice Centre (CCC), said multiple problems arise with the proposal.

“The first problem is the definition of what constitutes “junk food”. Take this practical example: 100 grams of foie gras has 462 calories, while a Big Mac burger of the same weight has only 257 calories. And yet, we don’t imagine foie gras when we think of junk food,” he said.

“When we start having to cut butter and bacon from advertising is when we notice that we haven’t properly defined what is being meant.

“And if we apply only what most people mean by junk food or fast food, then we’re being thoroughly inconsistent. Also, which ads “target” children? Many TV ads are age-neutral.

“Consumers should be allowed to make their own choices regarding their nutrition. The responsibility of children lies with parents.

“Parents and educators should bank on education and physical activity, which are most effective at curbing childhood obesity. Advertising bans are just patronising.”

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.