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Press Release

Liberal Housing Plan Misses The Mark

Ottawa, ON: Today the Federal government released their budget, which includes a significant portion addressing the housing crisis. Major policy announcements include a ban on blind bidding, a new tax-free First Home Savings Account, a foreign buyer ban, and $4 billion for municipalities who grow quicker than the historical average.

The Consumer Choice Center’s Toronto based North American Affairs Manager David Clement responded stating “Unfortunately, the government’s housing plan is not bold enough to properly tackle the housing crisis and effectively deal with the issue of chronic undersupply.”

“They’ve proposed a ban on blind bidding, which has already been shown to have no impact on prices and does nothing to increase supply. Their foreign buyer ban is yet another policy that is attempting to tinker with demand, without addressing supply. And while some of Ottawa’s response will allow for consumers to save more, like the Tax Free First Home Savings Account, these tax policy changes also do nothing to increase the supply of housing,” said Clement

“The only supply side policy the federal government has announced is their earmark for communities that grow at a quicker pace than the historical average. The government’s own estimate states that this could result in the building of 100,000 new homes by 2025, but the problem is that a province like Ontario needs another 650,000 new homes just to get to the national average, which wouldn’t be much to celebrate considering that Canada ranks dead last in the G7 for housing units per 1000 people,” said Clement.

“Rather than tinkering with demand and an underwhelming earmark program, the federal government should have focused on zoning reform. The federal government could quite easily tie federal funding for affordable housing and public infrastructure to density goals, with zoning reform as the core mechanism to achieve it. This would be broadly similar to the recent child care agreements which involve the transfer of federal dollars in exchange for a set of provincial deliverables,” said Clement.

Biden’s Digital Assets Executive Order Gets It ‘Mostly Right’ on Protecting Consumers and Innovation in Crypto

Washington, D.C. – Today, President Biden signed an executive order on digital assets, the first major federal executive action relating to cryptocurrencies in the United States.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center, praised the order for getting smart cryptocurrency regulation “mostly right”.

“President Biden’s statements demonstrate the federal government’s acknowledgment that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies will play a positive role in our nation’s future, and offers some key guidance on ensuring the entire crypto economy remains competitive, transparent, and innovative for consumers,” said Ossowski.

“Protecting consumers from scams, giving legal certainty, and allowing for innovation to create new standards for cryptocurrency rules is a responsible and legitimate role for government when it comes to digital assets. We must recognize that the nascent crypto finance space is ever-changing and rapidly evolving and that overzealous regulation could cripple future potential.

“Biden echoed concerns about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining, but we believe the environmental benefits from accepting mining will far outweigh any negative repercussions. Crypto mining is an innovative field that strengthens networks and creates incentives for clean energy,” said Ossowski.

“Last year, my colleagues and I at the Consumer Choice Center released our Principles for Smart Crypto Regulation, underscoring the need for preventing fraud, pursuing technological neutrality, reasonably low taxation, and legal certainty and transparency.

“However, considering the toll of inflation on ordinary Americans and the civil liberties concerns related to consumers’ financial privacy, the plans to research a Central Bank Digital Currency are concerning and will need much more scrutiny in the months to come.

“Overall, we praise the administration’s efforts on keeping cryptocurrency legitimate and accessible and hope any legislation to come will follow these bedrock principles. We’re all going to make it,” concluded Ossowski.

Congress wants to sneak in an effective ban on synthetic nicotine vaping that would harm consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, it was revealed that several congressmen and US senators have added a provision in the upcoming emergency government funding bill that would relegate tobacco-free synthetic nicotine to the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration and its premarket tobacco application process.

This would give vaping firms less than two months to file a lengthy and convoluted Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA), which will ultimately lead to most small vaping firms and shops going out of business.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, said this will actively harm adults who want to quit smoking.

“The byzantine process of asking permission to sell harm reducing vaping products in the 21st century is asinine in itself. But using sleight of hand during an emergency government funding bill to castigate millions of vapers and the entrepreneurs who make and sell the products they rely on is the definition of active harm,” said Ossowski.

“Only the largest and most powerful vaping and tobacco companies can afford the lawyers and the time necessary to complete the paperwork necessary to pass the FDA’s process, meaning thousands of hard-working American business owners will now be forced to close, depriving millions of adult consumers of harm reducing options. Many will be forced back to cigarettes.

“Synthetic nicotine is an innovative method of providing nicotine independent of tobacco, and millions of American adults now use these products as a less harmful method of consuming nicotine. A back door bureaucratic power move like this represents a sledgehammer to the men and women of our country who have sought out vaping devices to kick their cigarette habit,” added Ossowski.

“The method of fattening up continuing resolution bills with laws that benefit special interests, without broader democratic debate or analysis of the costs and benefits, is shameful in our modern American Republic.

“We hope our elected representatives reject this particular provision on synthetic nicotine and go back to the drawing board to offer a more permanent, sane, and smart policy on the next generation of vaping products,” said Ossowski.

41% of European consumers agree that sharing economy apps make life easier

The Consumer Choice Center commissioned the market research company Savanta to survey European consumers on four different EU policy-making areas: Consumer Choice and Government; Innovation & Sharing Economy; Agriculture & Food; and Science & Energy.

In February 2022, 500 people were surveyed in Belgium on their views on innovation, nuclear energy, agriculture, sharing economy, and government intervention in the economy.

Maria Chaplia, the Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The polling results are encouraging. European consumers overwhelmingly appreciate consumer choice. A wide array of agricultural regulations put forward by the EU and member states are at odds with what European consumers want.”

Key findings:

  • 69% of European consumers agree that the government should not restrict their freedom to choose.
  • 73% of European consumers think that the European Union should be more open to innovative solutions.
  • Two times more European consumers (41% agree and 22% disagree) agree that sharing economy apps makes their lives easier.
  • 69% of European consumers interviewed agree that innovation plays an important role in making their lives better.

“Innovation has made millions of European consumers better off. Thanks to platform economy apps such as Uber, Deliveroo, and many others, consumers can now choose between various delivery and transportation options. No wonder European consumers value the sharing economy apps so much,” said Chaplia.

“Platform economy apps have boosted consumer choice and given many Europeans the opportunity to work independently. Gig work provides flexibility which increases its attractiveness to many Europeans. However, in December 2021, the European Commission presented plans to regulate gig workers’ work conditions, which will essentially diminish the self-employment model. The overregulation of platforms will have spillover effects on consumer choice, and the EU should abstain from such moves,” concluded Chaplia.

Banning Flavored Vaping Products Will Do More Harm Than Good in Maine

This year, state lawmakers introduced two bills that would outlaw flavors for liquids used in nicotine vaping devices. The bills, LB 1550 and LB 1693, would ultimately harm adult users of these products, likely driving them back to using tobacco. These bills are currently being reviewed by the joint committees and will soon go to a vote.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director at the D.C.-based Consumer Choice Center, said “enacting a flavor ban for vaping products will do more harm than good as it will push adult consumers to switch back to smoking combustible tobacco. Considering that studies have shown vaping to be 95% less harmful than smoking, ensuring that adult consumers have access to the vaping products they prefer will ultimately lead to fewer cigarette smoking-related deaths within the state.

“More than 4.1% of Maine’s adult population uses vaping products, accounting for over 54,000 consumers within the state who have switched to a healthier alternative to combustible tobacco. Banning flavored vaping products will encourage these former smokers to switch back to smoking cigarettes and will ultimately lead to increases in smoking-related healthcare costs, which are already costing (state) taxpayers over $262.6 million annually,” said Ossowski.

“If a flavor ban is enacted, then consumers will likely look towards the black market in order to get access to their preferred flavored vaping products. This presents serious concerns for public health as vapers will be purchasing unregulated products that could be extremely dangerous to their wellbeing.

“In addition to endangering public health, pushing consumers to the black market through a flavor ban will also be to the detriment of many vape shops throughout the state as many of their products will no longer be available. After already suffering through the economic hardships of the pandemic, this bill could effectively kill many of these small businesses already struggling to stay afloat. 

“Instead of implementing misguided flavor bans, lawmakers should embrace vaping products in order to protect public health, small businesses, and consumer choice throughout the state,” said Ossowski.

European consumers agree that the EU is too cautious about GMOs

The Consumer Choice Center commissioned the market research company Savanta to survey European consumers on four different EU policy-making areas: Consumer Choice and Government; Innovation & Sharing Economy; Agriculture & Food; and Science & Energy.

In February 2022, 500 people were surveyed in Belgium on their views on innovation, nuclear energy, agriculture, sharing economy, and government intervention in the economy.

Maria Chaplia, the Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The polling results are encouraging. European consumers overwhelmingly appreciate consumer choice. A wide array of agricultural regulations put forward by the EU and member states are at odds with what European consumers want.”

Key findings:

  • 67% of European consumers would like the European Union to embrace technologies that make food more affordable.
  • 59% of European consumers trusted farmers to use crop protection products adequately to make safe food.
  • 33% of European consumers agree that the EU is too cautious about genetically modified organisms.
  • 59% of consumers interviewed agree that the European Union often over regulates at the expense of European Consumers.
  • 73% of consumers think that the European Union should be more open to innovative solutions.

“The EU shouldn’t restrict farmers’ freedom to use the preferred crop protection tools to avoid these unintended consequences. Alternatively, the EU should consider legalizing genetic modification. European consumers trust farmers to choose crop protection tools to make food safe. Despite popular rhetoric, there is no substantial scientific evidence of the health and environmental risks ascribed to GM products,” said Chaplia.

“The war in Ukraine, one of the largest wheat exporters in the world, threatens European and global food security. At such a challenging time, the EU cannot simply afford to pursue expensive organic ambitions. Now is the time to embrace innovation over unjustified precaution,” concluded Chaplia.

Chip Shortage Could Worsen With Over-Regulation on PFAS

Last week news broke that the ongoing chip shortage cost the US economy $240 billion in 2021. The shortage heavily impacted the auto industry, costing manufacturers an estimated $210 billion in revenue as cars sat in lots waiting for chips to be installed. In response, Intel announced that they will build a $20 billion chip factory in Ohio, but those efforts may be limited if Congress proceeds with heavy-handed regulations for perfluoroalkyls (PFAS) found in the PFAS Action Act.

The Consumer Choice Center’s North American Affairs Manager David Clement responds: “The PFAS Action Act could seriously jeopardize chip manufacturing in the United States, and ultimately make the chip shortage much worse before it gets better. These chemicals are vital for the production of semiconductors, and if Congress continues down the path of wanting to ban PFAS chip manufacturers will be in a world of trouble.

“Regulating PFAS has to be done from the perspective of clean drinking water, as opposed to declaring all 4,000+ PFAS chemicals hazardous. Ensuring proper production standards to avoid dumping or leakage helps solve the problem of contaminated water, while avoiding the consequences of banning PFAS all together. This is especially important in the context of everyday consumer products that rely on these chemicals in the manufacturing process. If production standards for PFAS are upheld, and enforced, we can tackle the clean drinking water issue while allowing for PFAS to be used where it presents little to no risk to consumers,” said Clement.

“What makes the act even more problematic is that the science isn’t settled in regards to the impact PFAS has on human health, and at what exposure level. Peer-reviewed research in Environmental Research suggests that it might be time for legislators to take a deep breath before over-committing themselves to heavy restrictions and out-right bans. We hope that Congress can follow the science on PFAS,” said Clement.

Harm reduction facts: vaping is not a gateway to smoking

Consumer Choice Center published a new factsheet with the latest research demonstrating why vaping is not a gateway to smoking.

Main findings:

  • Fact number 1. The essence of e-cigarettes is different from that of conventional cigarettes, and their purpose is to serve as a safer alternative that reduces health-associated risks.
  • Fact number 2. Nicotine, also found in e-cigarettes and used in conventional nicotine replacement therapy, doesn’t increase the risk of serious illnesses (heart attack, stroke) or mortality.
  • Fact number 3. Youth use of e-cigarettes is rare and most users are current or former smokers. 
  • Fact number 4. Vaping flavour bans might increase the cigarette uptake among teens and young adults and push adult vapers back to smoking.

“Most anti-vaping arguments fail to take into account the fact that vaping devices target tobacco consumers. This is similar to sugar consumption by people who suffer from diabetes: sugar substitutes are not a gateway to sugar because consumers switch to avoid the harmful effects of sugar. Sugar substitutes are not blamed for increased sugar consumption, and vaping devices serve a similar purpose should be equally endorsed,” said Maria Chaplia, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center and a co-author of the paper.

“We want our factsheet to be used by policymakers in Europe and across the world as a guide to a pro-consumer, pro-science, and pro-choice approach to lifestyle regulations. Vaping does help adult smokers quit. Our factsheet provides a valuable overview of the main studies on vaping, and we hope it will increase awareness of this harm reduction tool,” concluded Chaplia.

The UAE ranked the most pandemic-resilient country

Today, the Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group, released the updated 2022 Pandemic Resilience Index to overview global health system preparedness for COVID-19 and other viruses.

The Index examines 40 countries through the following factors: vaccination drive, booster programme launch, time lags that have put brakes on it, critical care bed capacity, and mass testing.

In 2021, the Consumer Choice Center published the Pandemic Resilience Index, with March 31, 2021 as the cut off date. The original results found that the UAE was the second most prepared country. The updated Index incorporates the new data between the end of March and late November, 2021, and additionally considers the booster programme.

“The UAE was the pioneer of the booster rollout. Countries such as New Zealand, Ukraine, Australia, Spain and Canada took 5 months longer to get it up and running. Compared to the initial results, the change in the ranking is largely due to the booster vaccine rollout delays. Israel, the most resilient country, according to the original Index, started giving out boosters 75 days later than the UAE,” said Maria Chaplia, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center and author of the Index.

“We also considered the relative change in testing, compared to the original index. Although Greece’s increase was highest, the UAE was among the top five countries to have increased their testing. Luxembourg and Sweden, for contrast, reduced their testing,” added Chaplia.

“We recognise that there are limitations to what this Index can achieve, as well as there might be a minor margin of error. However, it holds that vaccination and testing capacity remain a critical weapon against new strains of COVID. Most countries have learned the importance of testing, but the booster vaccination rollout experienced significant delays. The index should be seen as a reminder that there are countries that do it better — such as the UAE, Cyprus, and Bahrain — and they should be further explored as success stories,” concluded Chaplia.

The CCC welcomes Lord Wharton and Alexander Kvitashvili as Advisers

The Consumer Choice Center (CCC), the global consumer advocacy group, has announced the appointment of the Right Honourable Lord Wharton of Yarm as Strategic Adviser and of Alexander Kvitashvili as Public Health Adviser.

Lord Wharton took his seat in the House of Lords in September 2020. In 2021, he was appointed the chair of the Office of Students (OfS). Prior to that, Lord Wharton served as Boris Johnson’s Campaign Manager in a Conservative leadership race in 2019 and as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development from July 2015 to June 2017. He was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament for Stockton South in 2010 and served two terms.

Commenting on his appointment, Lord Wharton said:

“I’m extremely excited to be joining the Consumer Choice Center as Strategic Adviser. The CCC’s work in free trade, lifestyle, innovation, and agriculture is outstanding and timely. Evidence-based policies of which the CCC is a passionate advocate have helped improve consumers’ lives in the UK and globally. I look forward to working with the CCC on raising the voice of consumers in the policy process.”

Alexander Kvitashvili is an independent consultant at the World Health Organisation (WHO). He served as the 19th Minister of Healthcare of Ukraine from 2014 to 2016. Kvitashvili also served as Minister of Health of Georgia from 2008 to 2010. Kvitashvili was also the rector of Tbilisi State University (TSU) from 2010 to 2013.

Commenting on his appointment, Alexander Kvitashvili said:

“I am extremely delighted to be joining the CCC’s as a Public Health Adviser. I have been following the work of the CCC since their start, and I am astounded by its achievements. The public health discourse is often riddled with dogma and one-sided views, and the CCC is truly a one-of-its-kind group. The CCC brings brilliant expertise, global perspective, and dedication to preserving consumer choice. I look forward to advising the CCC on public health matters.”

Commenting on the appointments, Fred Roeder, the Managing Director of the CCC said:

“I’m thrilled to welcome Lord Wharton as our new Strategic Adviser and Alexander Kvitashvili as our Public Health Adviser. As the CCC continues to expand, Lord Wharton’s exceptional knowledge of the UK’s domestic scene will be instrumental in helping us elevate the voice of consumers. Alexander’s valuable public health insights will be critical in taking our work to the next level. I am confident that with Lord Wharton and Alexander Kvitashvili onboard, the CCC’s impact will blossom.”

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