E-Cigarette Reviews and Rankings

War on Electronic Cigarettes Leads to Tobacco Cigarette Sales Recovery in Italy

A recent statement made by Giovanni Risso, president of the Federation of Italian Tobacconists, which revealed that tobacco cigarette sales have risen 3 percent in the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period of last year, has convinced Italian public health experts that the Government’s war on e-cigarettes has had the worst possible result.

e-cig-vaporIn an open letter to Roberta Pacifici, director of OSSFAD, Italy’s Observatory for Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs, a number of reputed public health experts urge policy makers to reflect on the uncritical application of the precautionary principle in the case of electronic cigarettes and to carry out scientific studies instead of taking action based on unsubstantiated claims and hunches. Carlo Cipolla, President of the International Cardioncology Society Europe, Ricardo Polosa, of the University of Catania, Umberto Tirelli, of the National Cancer Institute in Aviano and Umberto Veronesi, of the European Institute of Oncology, have all signed the document in hopes that it would help change people’s perception of e-cigarettes.

Their actions were prompted by a recent official statement of Giovanni Risso, president of Italy’s federation of tobacconists (FIT), who announced that “the fight against smuggling, the return to conventional cigarettes after the decline of e-cigarettes and the progressive realignment of retail prices have contributed to a 3% recovery in cigarette sales in the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period of last year”. According to the aforementioned health scientists, this is clear evidence that the decrease in consumption of electronic cigarettes has not produced the desired reduction in smoking, but a recovery.

Before we delve further into the warnings issued by Italian health experts regarding law makers’ hostile attitude toward e-cigarettes, it’s important to see how the latter managed to transform one of the world’s bustling electronic cigarette markets into one struggling to survive, in a relatively short period of time. At the beginning of 2013, e-cigarettes had become so popular in Italy that the Federation of Italian Tobacconists appealed to a regional court in an attempt to block sales, claiming that they were “unfair competition”. The Government’s response was almost instantaneous, in the form of a monster tax imposed on electronic cigarettes equal to 58.5% of the cost of sale. Scheduled to come into effect in 2014, the introduction of the tax was postponed following protests.

However, the mere announcement of the tax produced serious effects within the market. Users scared by an unjustifiably high cost of vaping returned to smoking and small businesses started to close shops all over the country. Last year, the Government admitted that the popularity of electronic cigarettes was taking a toll on the national budget, with taxes from tobacco dropping by 6.1% (-€455 million), and the new tax was meant to compensate for the loss. Only they didn’t stop there. Two months ago, it was reported that a new taxation proposal would effectively double the current price of e-liquid in Italy. The principle of rational and proportional taxation between combustible tobacco products and non-tobacco products had been trampled on through a series of simple legislative and executive decisions.

Only the repercussions of this aggressive war on electronic cigarettes are dire, to say the least. While the sales of tobacco cigarettes and smokers continue to decline in most countries of the European Union, Giovanni Risso’s recent statement suggests Italy is an unfortunate exception. “The war on electronic cigarettes has clearly and predictably resulted in a recovery of smoking,” Prof. Ricardo Polosa wrote in the letter to OSSFAD. “The Italian Government should instead move to a proportionate regulation of e-cigarettes, taking into account the scientific evidence in order to avoid unintended consequences that are hard to recover from. Balance rules that aim to protect consumers without undermining the freedom of choice could really bring down the number of smokers and, most importantly, the number of people who suffer and die from smoking-related diseases.”

“Where else in the world have you witnessed the criminalization and fiscal harassment of electronic cigarettes as in Italy?” asked Prof. Umberto Tirolli? In countries like the United States, France Italy-e-cigarettesor the UK we are witnessing a decline in the consumption of traditional cigarettes parallel to an increase in e-cigarette use. This trend will result in a decreased incidence of tumors caused by the combustion of tobacco and paper, as well as by inhaled carcinogens.”

Professor Carlo Cipolla wrote that: “At the European Institute of Oncology ,we have conducted a clinical trial using electronic cigarettes totally free of nicotine. Our results were exceptional in terms of cessation, and no toxicity was detected. Certainly, in a not yet fully regulated and controlled market, you can find electronic cigarettes that do not meet the required quality standard, but the advice would be to refer to products with original packaging bearing the CE mark of approval.”

Umberto Veronessi, of the European Institute of Oncology, warned that lung cancer kills two million people a year worldwide, of which 40,000 in Italy, not counting the deaths caused by other smoking related diseases. “Hypothetically, if all smokers were to switch to electronic cigarettes, we would get a drastic short term decrease in the number of smoking-related deaths,” he said. “We therefore believe the e-cigarette is an effective tool to combat the serious tragedy of lung cancer.”

Italy should serve as a case study to all those who believe harsh regulations and increased taxation is the right way to solve the e-cigarette dilemma. It also clearly debunks the theory that e-cigarettes act as a gateway to smoking. If the increase in tobacco cigarette sales after the decline of electronic cigarettes shows us anything, it’s that e-cigarettes keep people from starting to smoke and going back to smoking.

Leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *