The Italian government planned to increase taxes on electronic cigarettes and accessories by 58.5% and planned to use the €35 million tax-hike revenue to avoid cutting thousands of prison jobs. Vapers and e-smoking shop owners took the streets in protest, forcing the initiator of the bill to withdraw his proposal.
Everyone knows about Italy’s dire financial situation, but going after a growing business sector by imposing an unjustifiably-high task doesn’t seem right. And yet that’s exactly what the government planned to do after the Judiciary Committee of the Senate approved a bill proposed by Pasquale D’Ascola, which stated that the tax on vaping devices and accessories should be increased by 58.5% in order to secure the millions of euros needed to save prison jobs around the country. The measure was to come into effect as early as September 2013, threatening to put many small shop owners and companies out of business. Proponents of electronic cigarettes rallied against D’Ascola’s bill, calling the tax increase a “scam” that could cost as many as 5,000 people employed in the sector their jobs.
The National Association of Electronic Smoking (Anafe) urged politicians to rethink their budget-increase strategy and back-off on a new tax on their products. Thousands of protesters and business owners staged large-scale protests in Rome and several other major Italian cities, carrying banners with mottos like “We Do Not Smoke” or “Smoking Kills, And So Does the 58.5% Tax Increase”, and shouting their right to vape freely. After days of protests, Pasquale D’Ascola finally withdrew the bill, leaving the government to find an alternative way to save the jobs in the prison system.
Italian vapers have definitely not yet won the war, only a small battle, as the government is sure to come after electronic cigarettes again sooner or later. Still the decision to abandon the tax was applauded and vapers across the country celebrated their victory. “We will continue to protest. This tax is unjust and unbalanced and we ask the government to look at possible alternatives that allow it to make up the necessary revenue,” Anafe President Massimiliano Mancini said in a statement. The alternative is the death of a sector that was growing,”
Despite their rapidly-increasing popularity, e-cigarettes are facing tough odds, and things are only going to get worse. Still, if there’s anything we can learn from this story is that if we stick together and stand up for our rights, we can actually make a difference.