Smoke and mirrors in Khan's taxi congestion charge plan

Following the news that London Mayor Sadiq Khan wants to introduce congestion charges for Private Hire Vehicles, we welcome the change but are puzzled why it doesn't extend to London's Black Cabs too. 

Sam Dumitriu, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, says:

"Sadiq Khan is right to try and tackle congestion through road pricing, but exempting Black Cabs is unwarranted and unfair.

"We need a level-playing field between Black Cabs and Private Hire Vehicles. Singling out Black Cabs for special treatement could mean more smog-spewing Diesel trips and fewer trips in cleaner Priuses."

For further comment or to arrange an interview, please contact Matt Kilcoyne via email( or on his mobile (07904099599).

Uber ruling shows London is open to competition and innovation

The Adam Smith Institute welcomes the sensible ruling by Transport for London on granting a 15 month license for Uber in the capital. 

Head of Research, Sam Dumitriu, says:

"Uber have rightfully had their license reinstated, albeit on a short-term basis. Transport for London’s original decision to revoke their license sent a message that London was not open to innovation and competition. They should now open London’s minicab market up to other foreign operators such as Lyft and Estonia’s Taxify. In the long run, competition will be the best regulator."

If you would like to arrange an interview or further comment please contact Matt Kilcoyne, Head of Communications, via email ( or phone (07904099599, or 02072224995). 

Switching to vaping could save 1 million years of life

Adam Smith Institute report suggests if vaping replaces smoking Britons could save 1 million life years but young women risk being left behind.

  • Average smoker will lose a decade of life expectancy and have lower life quality compared to non-smokers

  • Access to alternatives and information on health risks key to switching from smoking but currently held back by domestic and EU rules

  • UK’s liberal harm reduction approach to vaping has worked to cut smoking but lifting EU legislation post Brexit could help more people kick the smoking habit.

  • Young women are being left behind by the vaping revolution and are risking their lives smoking

  • If women under the age of 24 vaped at the same rate as young men Britons could save over a million years of life

Reforms to laws that discourage switching from cigarettes to vaping could help save over a million years of life, a new paper by the Adam Smith Institute claims today with young women standing to gain the most.

Despite the overwhelming majority of UK smokers knowing the risks of smoking large numbers continue to smoke.

Young women risk being left behind as other groups move to vaping. While 8.9% of young men vape, for women it is just 2.6%. Women are however continuing to smoke with nearly 16% of women aged 16-24 smoking.

Data from the BBC’s Reality Check team revealed that vaping shops are the third largest growth sector in retail space in the UK, with 381 stores opening in 2017. Yet despite the rise in shops on high streets, vaping remains a predominantly male activity, especially among the young. While women continue to smoke they increase their exposure to carcinogenic chemicals which are heavily linked to respiratory diseases and cancers.

The paper uses World Health Organisation estimates of additional life expectancy from quitting smoking at different ages and Public Health England estimates of e-cigarette relative risk to estimate that 1,036,640 years of life could be saved if young women vaped at the same rate as young meng. In the United States estimates suggest wider adoption of e-cigarettes by smokers could lead to at least 1.6 million fewer premature deaths and 20.8 million fewer life years lost.

Despite Public Health England’s recent advice that e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than cigarettes, the majority of smokers across the UK do not believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes and this situation has got worse over time. Even fewer are aware of the existence of newer reduced-risk products like "heat-not-burn" devices, warns Daniel Pryor of the Adam Smith Institute.

Daniel Pryor of the Adam Smith Institute argues that sensible reforms after Brexit to advertising restrictions, many of which were put in place at the European Union level, could mean fewer lives lost to smoking related illnesses in Britain.

Both vaping and heat-not-burn technology could be advertised directly to smokers within cigarette packaging, on online platforms and with reference to Public Health England’s advice on the benefits of swapping from smoking. While larger vaping liquid sizes, currently restricted by EU Single Market rules could be reformed to make it easier to ensure access to liquids and reduce the temptation to slip back into standard cigarettes.

Some reforms could happen at home now. The new report argues that Britain should look again at bans on indoor vaping in public places, on rail platforms and other shared spaces. This builds on calls from the British Lung Foundation to ensure e-cigarettes aren’t “banned in enclosed public spaces by legislation as smoking is.”

Reduced-risk alternatives to smoking matter, Sweden has one of the lowest smoking and cancer rates in Europe – linked to the prevalence of snus – which studies have shown to have little impact on life expectancy. In Japan, where heat-not-burn technologies are both openly advertised market share is now up to 10% of nicotine products and cigarette sales have plummeted by 12.4% in the past year.

Lack of alternatives matter too. In Australia, where e-cigarettes are banned, smokers as a proportion of the population dropped by just 0.6 percentage points between 2013-2016 (the last dataset available).

The UK by contrast saw a fall of 2.9 percentage points – and there are now more ex-smokers who use e-cigarettes than current smokers. The UK’s mostly liberal approach over the past decade has been a large part of the success of lower smoking rates and higher vaping rates, the report argues.

If Britain is to achieve a continued fall in smoking rates then more liberalisation for reduced risk alternatives is key.

Daniel Pryor, Research Economist at the Adam Smith Institute and author of the paper, said:

“To its great credit, successive UK governments and public health bodies have maintained a comparatively liberal approach to vaping and other consumer nicotine products. Domestic and international evidence shows that the health benefits of this harm reduction approach are enormous, but young British women who smoke are being left behind.

“It’s vital that we combat the widespread and worsening misperception that vaping is as harmful as smoking through sensible advertising reforms and public health guidance. We must also ensure that smokers who hold strong preferences for tobacco have viable quit options by making it easier to bring other innovative reduced-risk products (such as ‘heat-not-burn’ devices) to market.”

Sophie Jarvis, Policy Advisor at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

“Women are being left behind by the vaping revolution. And it’s costing them years off their lives. The EU’s ban on advertising stifles innovation and is holding back people from switching from harmful cigarettes. As we leave the EU we have the chance to scrap these bans and save lives - in particular women’s lives.”  

Dr Roger Henderson GP, a leading smoking cessation expert, said:

“Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable early death and illness in England, with around 100,000 deaths in the UK attributable to smoking each year.

“In my surgery, increasing numbers of smokers are telling me they are trying e-cigarettes as an aid to cutting down smoking or quitting, we shouldn’t ignore them. Let’s save lives by making it easier to market safer nicotine products. It may be nicotine that makes it hard for smokers to quit, but it is smoke and tar that puts them in the ground.”

Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Matt Kilcoyne, Head of Communications, | 07584 778207.

The report ‘1 Million Years of Life’ is available here.

Politicians, academics and think tanks call for cannabis legalisation

Following the call on the government from Lord Hague to look again at legalising cannabis MPs, Ron Hogg PCC, academics and think tanks write to the Telegraph to call for a Royal Commission to examine the evidence of legalising cannabis.

Dear Sir/Madam,

We believe that Lord Hague is right to say that the war on cannabis has been ‘irreversibly lost’.

The Adam Smith Institute has estimated that legalisation, regulation, and taxation of cannabis would raise at least £1bn a year for the Treasury, while the TaxPayers' Alliance has suggested nearly £900m could be saved from police, prisons, courts and NHS budgets from legalisation. The UK could use a ‘cannabis dividend’ on expanding access to addiction treatment centres and reducing wait-times for mental health services on the NHS. 

Ensuring the safety of citizens is the first duty of government. Prohibition of cannabis is failing to keep Britons safe. Pushing people into the hands of gangs that peddle drugs on the black market risks their safety and gives cash to criminals. Users have no way of knowing the potency of the cannabis they consume, which varies wildly depending on where they get it from. 

With cannabis legal in some form in a majority of US states, and Canada preparing to fully legalise recreational cannabis, we believe the status quo is unsustainable.

The government should appoint a Royal Commission to look again at how cannabis is treated under the law and consider legalisation. 

Crispin Blunt MP, former Prisons Minister
Michael Fabricant MP, former Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury
The Rt. Hon the Lord Lilley
Ed Davey MP, Liberal Democrat Home Affiairs Spokesperson
Alistair Carmichael MP, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip
Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat DEFRA spokesperson
Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson
Norman Lamb MP, former health minister
Lord Foster of Bath
Ron Hogg PCC
Professor David Nutt
Dr Gary Potter
Professor Celia Morgan
Professor Adam R Winstock, Founder & CEO Global Drug Survey
John O'Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance
Rebecca Lowe, Director of FREER
Polly Mackenzie, Director of Demos
Dr Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute
Chris Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs
Oliver Wiseman, Editor of CapX
Miranda Larbi
Carrie Wade, Director of Harm Reduction Policy at R Street Institute

To arrange an interview or for further comment please contact Matt Kilcoyne (, 02072224995 or 07904099599).

The Cannabis Dividend

Lord William Hague has come out for cannabis legalisation and we are happy to say that we stand with the noble Lord. Sam Dumitriu, our Head of Research, says:

"Lord Hague is right to move beyond drug policy dogma and call for the legalisation, regulation, and taxation of cannabis.

"We estimate that legalisation would raise at least £1bn a year for the Treasury, on top of reduced policing and prosecuting costs. The ‘cannabis dividend’ could be spent on expanding access to addiction treatment centres and reducing wait-times for mental health services on the NHS. 

"Just as the prohibition of alcohol failed in the US, the prohibition of cannabis has failed here. Ensuring that licensed shops, not criminal gangs, are able to sell cannabis for recreational use will prevent sales to minors and ensure users are informed through product labelling. 

"We should follow Canada’s lead and regulate cannabis."

To arrange an interview, or for further comment please contact Matt Kilcoyne via email ( or phone (02072224995 or 07584778207).

Royal Bank of Scotland share sell-off is a good news

Sam Dumitriu, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, featured on the front page of City AM and in the coverage of the government's share sell-off in The Times and the Guardian today we welcomed the sale and criticised those that would see the government pursue unsound investment strategies.

Read City AM's coverage here.

The Times' story can be found here.

The Guardian's piece on the sale can be found here

To arrange an interview with Sam Dumitriu, or another member of Adam Smith Institute staff, please contact us via email ( or phone (02072224995 or 07584778207). 

Grayling has something (good) to declare on Heathrow

Following the news from Chris Grayling that the government is recommending approval for the third runway at Heathrow, Matt Kilcoyne welcomed the decision and criticised campaigners that want Britain to pay the price for more delays and less capacity: 

"Chris Grayling is right to greenlight a new runway at Heathrow. With increased capacity from 85.5m to 130m by the end of next decade this decisions could bring in billions of pounds for the British economy.

"If other domestic airports need new flights to compete they should be allowed to expand too, especially Gatwick. Capacity is tight across the country and fortunately demand isn’t letting up with over 40m overseas visits expected this year.

"The country needs more links across the world as we leave the European Union if we're to make a success of Brexit. More connections mean new business opportunities and more lives made easier – in short it means Britain can soar.

"Campaigners rushing out to say house prices will fall under the flight path are forgetting the generous compensation that taxpayers will pay out and the fact that expansion has been in the offing for decades – the price change should be factored in by now."

If you would like an interview or further comment please contact Matt via email ( or mobile (07584778207).

Selling this RBS share is fair

Following the announcement by the government of an RBS share sale and the Labour Party's criticism, Sam Dumitriu of the Adam Smith Institute calls on the government to follow sound investment strategies, not populism:

“Labour are wrong to oppose plans to sell-off RBS shares. It is a mistake to think that just because they were once twice as valuable that they will be again. The state-owned bank’s share price has fallen by 50 pence since the last sell-off three years ago.

If George Osborne had followed Mr McDonnell’s advice, then we would £320m worse off. Chasing your losses is not a sound investment strategy, it’s problem gambling.”

Please contact Matt Kilcoyne ( or 07904099599) if you would like to arrange an interview or further comment from ASI staff. 


Happy Tax Freedom Day 2018!


Taxpayers worked 148 days for the Chancellor this year, today is the first day they start working for themselves

  • Tax Freedom Day falls on May 29th the latest it's been since 1995
  • Brits work 148 days of the year solely to pay taxes, 3 days more than last year, but as of today workers are earning for themselves
  • UK Taxpayers will fork out over £700bn to the Treasury this year, 40.65% of net national income
  • Cost of Government Day, which factors in borrowing as well taxes is the earliest it has been since 2008. The UK is successfully bringing down the deficit, but spending is still too high.
  • With tax demands at record highs, if political parties want economic growth they need to come up with ways to reduce, not increase, the national tax burden. 

Tax Freedom Day is a measure of when Britons stop paying tax and start putting their earnings into their own pocket. In 2018, the Adam Smith Institute has estimated that every penny the average person earned for working up to and including May 28th went to the taxman—from May 29th onwards they are finally earning for themselves.

British taxpayers have worked a gruelling 148 days for the taxpayers this year. More than in any year under New Labour, and three days longer than last year. Britain’s tax burden is moving in the wrong direction.

Government spending choices fall on UK Taxpayers, this year they will fork out £703.7bn—representing 40.65% of net national income. 

Tax Freedom Day in the United Kingdom is now over a month later than in the USA, where this year it fell on April 19th

The ONS has revised net national income data and the Adam Smith Institute has calculated this means Tax Freedom Day is later than any day since reliable records began in 1995. The shortest number of days worked to meet HMRC’s tax demands was 122 in 1996. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 10.22.50.png

In a sign of good news though, Cost of Government Day this year falls on 21st June with the smallest gap after Tax Freedom Day in over a decade. The Cost of Government Day calculates spending over net national income—i.e. including debt-financed government activity, which we must eventually pay, as well as tax-financed government spending.

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 10.23.27.png

While it’s good news the gap is getting smaller, the money borrowed to cover the near month-long gap since Tax Freedom Day must eventually be paid off with future taxes. 

With squeezed budgets, low wage growth, inflation above target and high housing costs, UK taxpayers cannot afford budget proposals from Left or Right that attempt to squeeze more money from taxpayers. Instead politicians should look at reducing the size of the state, and reforming our taxes.

The Adam Smith Institute singles out two tax changes that would boost growth and the pay packets of Britons right across the country:

  1. UK Government should move to take the poorest out of tax altogether. With budgets tight across the government should boost the take home pay of minimum wage workers by raising the National Insurance Contribution threshold in line with that of income tax. 
  2. Governments across the UK should abolish stamp duty (in Scotland the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax). Britain’s most damaging tax, Stamp Duty destroys 75p of wealth for every pound raised. The Government should prioritise cutting the taxes that do the most harm. 

Dr Eamonn Butler, Founder and Director of the Adam Smith Institute, said:

“In the Middle Ages, a serf only had to work four months of the year for his feudal landlord, whereas in modern Britain people have to toil five months for the tax gatherers.

“It appears Britain is stuck in the past with an over-large and inefficient public sector that has cost each of us 148 days' hard labour this year, the most in over two decades.

“Since the the great recession a decade ago Britons have been economising to live within their means. Frankly, it’s about time government did too.”

Mark Littlewood, Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“We are almost half-way through the year and it is only now that UK workers are finally working for themselves, not the taxman. Tax Freedom Day demonstrates how heavy the tax burden is in this country with high income tax rates, national insurance payments and draconian VAT and stealth taxes, including the newly introduced levy on sugar.

“While the Government has brought the budget deficit down, for all the talk of austerity, progress is still too slow. Reductions in public spending to relieve workers of the burden they are saddled with will allow them to spend more of what they earn, thus providing the economic boost this country needs.”

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance.

“Brits are very generous, and need little pushing in order to dig deep to causes that matter to them. That's why ever-higher taxes, raised under the pretence of 'asking' people to pay 'a bit more' is so cruel. Taxpayers work longer and longer, only to see their hard-earned money wasted by politicians who don't care a jot for it. It's time we recognised the sacrifices people have to make to contribute such high taxes, and time too for the government to begin lessening this burden by getting spending under control.”

Sam Dumitriu, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

“Tax Freedom Day is a stark illustration of the UK’s tax burden. It is a reminder that public services such as education, welfare, and the NHS must be paid for, either through taxes or borrowing (taxes on the next generation). 

“The Chancellor must resist the pressure to declare austerity over and turn on the spending taps. Labour too, must be honest with the public. Their proposed £50bn increase in public spending will inevitably lead to even higher tax burdens on ordinary people.

“Further reductions in public spending will be necessary to allow workers to keep and spend more of what they earn.”

Notes to editors:
For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Matt Kilcoyne, Head of Communications, | 07584 778207.

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, neoliberal think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.



Sadiq Khan should accept the case for legalising and regulating drugs

This morning in Mayor's Question Time, Conservative London Assembly member Andrew Boff secured a meeting with Sadiq Khan for him to listen to the case for legalising and regulating drugs.

Daniel Pryor, Head of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute, welcomed the news:

It’s great to hear that the Mayor is willing to hear the compelling case for taking back control of our violent drugs market by legalising and regulating drugs. Teenagers are being exploited by county-lines gangs, with an estimated 4,000 caught up in smuggling in London alone, precisely because we hand over a drugs market worth £5.3 billion to criminals. Young people are able to access hard drugs from dealers who don’t ask for ID, and users have no access to information on the purity of what they’re taking. Our current approach leads to tragic, entirely avoidable deaths from violent crime, overdose, a lack of support for problem users.

With around 12,000 people in prison for drug-related offences, police time and taxpayers’ money is being wasted on fighting an unwinnable war that makes our streets less safe. We should follow the examples of Canada and many U.S. states by moving towards a harm reduction approach, starting with legalising and regulating cannabis. These efforts were led by a coalition of public health experts and law-and-order conservatives, and the same groups are calling for legalisation in the UK.

Please get in touch with Matt Kilcoyne (07904099599 or 02072224995) to arrange an interview or further comment.