Friday, October 21, 2005

Time for a tax cut

Recently I learnt of a campaign by the Terrence Higgins Trust that makes so much sense I cannot understand why it has not been acted upon by the Government yet.

At the moment condoms in the UK are amongst the most expensive in the world. With a cost twice that of those in the US and exceeding the prices across Europe, access to safe sex costs. Whilst free condoms are theoretically available from the NHS, rationing limits supplies and many young people find it difficult to ask for them. The current high prices are a disincentive to use, especially amongst those in at risk groups.

At present the money raised by the VAT on condoms is miniscule compared to the ost of over £1 billion a year to treat sexually transmitted infections and the £350 million and rising cost of HIV care. Making it easier to access safe sex by cutting the VAT on condoms would be a wise investment that would more than pay for itself.

This is supported by experts such as the Government's own Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV, who recommended the abolition of VAT on all over-the-counter contraceptives. Current EU regulations mean that the VAT could not be lowered below 5%, but this would be a worthwhile start.

Taking this action would not only help in the fight against STIs, but it would also be a dual step towards freeing individuals to take the action of their choice and a reduction in the burden of taxation on the individual.


Contemplative Activist said...

Tim, I can't find your email address - I changed email programs recently and not all my address book copied over!

Can you email me pls & I'll send you the stuff about Belfast :)


Contemplative Activist said...

Oh, and in response to your post.

Some good points there!

I think, however, that how ever cheap condoms are young people may find them difficult to buy. The embarrassment of getting them over the counter etc. I think we need to find better ways of distributing free contraceptives.

Hats tip to the Family Planning Agency, the Brook and Young People's Sexual Health Clinics, as they tend to do this very well - although again, not all young people will access such services.

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

One effect of this tax cut would be to make them cheaper/come in greater quantities in vending machines. Of course they'd also need to be better supplied/maintained as well!

Contemplative Activist said...

Where I live, condoms are freely available on the NHS (if you know where to go to get them...) They're offered to everyone who accesses family planning service. On one hand, I think that's a good policy - free contraception, freely accessible to all (in theory).

On the otherhand, condoms are being given freely to people like myself - rich enough and willing enough to buy them from a chemist or supermarket. Who is going to say no to a free packet if you intend to use them?

Maybe it would be better to target at risk groups, e.g. young people from socially deprived areas where there is a high risk of unplanned pregnancy and elevated rate of STIs? A bit of planning might be helpful on the free condom distribution front!

Also - where do you get condom vending toilets? Now theoretically you have to be over 18 to enter such establishments...what are young people to do?

And what of those who need super strong condoms, for er, alternative entry points? How easy are they to access from discreet vending machines?

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

I've seen vending machines with a decent diverse stock in many a diverse public toilet on a regular basis (and don't misinterpret that!). I understandably have no idea what the situation is in the ladies'.

Of course distribution of free condoms needs a rethink but it's by no means the only way to tackle the problem.


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