An Imperial’s report attacks the colossus Philip Morris. The tax break for the ‘hybrid’ cigarettes is accused. In the backdrop there is the €1bn investment promised to PM Renzi by the American multinational company
At the Government they seem not to notice, but they all know – starting by the Prime Minister, Mr. Matteo Renzi, to the Minister of Healthcare, Mrs. Beatrice Lorenzin – that tobacco is a field where a real war is ongoing. To understand it, tt would have been enough to show up in Bologna, at the end of last week, where there was the “Global tobacco and nicotine forum 2015”. All the big honchos of Big Tobacco attended, without any Italian institution representative on the site. Well, it’s been a harsh fight. Specifically, it’s been two colossus like Philip Morris (which sells Chesterfield and Marlboro traditional cigarettes) and Imperial Tobacco (Gauloises, Davidoff), fighting each other. They both have a business to defend in Italy, going on or upcoming.
TROOPS ON THE FIELD The fuse has been lighted by Imperial Tobacco, which targeted one of the new products sold in Italy by Philip Morris, iQOS, that kind of hybrid cigarette that should work through a “tobacco inhalation without combustion” mechanism and been less harmful. On this point there is at stake the destiny of a sector that is worth €12bn of excise only in Italy. This because if the product is less harmful, like e-cigs (electronic cigarettes), it has the right to get a tax break. And Philip Morris’ iQOS obtained to be included in the tobacco category awarded with a 50% ‘discount’ on the excise.
- READ: The Tobacco Lobby Contributes to Renzi, and Then Gets a Tax Discount | Il Fatto Quotidiano [UPDATE]
But, is iQOS really less harmful? The answer is negative, at least as of an Imperial Tobacco’s report drafted by their chief scientist, Steve Stotesbury. “The figures shows that on a puff by puff basis most substances associated with cigarette smoke are reduced in iQOS by between 85 to 95%”, Stotesbury said, adding that if we “compare this with the aerosol of the e-cigs, most of the same harmful, of just potentially harmful, substances are absent or undetectable”. Hence, it must be true that iQOS is a product less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but not like the electronic cigarettes which, as for Stotesbury, hold a lot bigger potential.
Clearly, here everybody is playing while defending its own interests. Imperial Tobacco launched in Italy an e-cig called JAI, and does not appreciate the competition coming from a product that is more harmful, as of their study.
The Italian e-cig producers gathered in ANAFE Confindustria broadly agree on this point, while the other colossus – BAT (British American Tobacco) – is at the moment taking a softer position. But the point is still there: on which basis the Government included Philip Morris’ iQOS in the reduced risk products? Are there any studies at this regard? These are all questions that need an urgent answer, because Philip Morris’ management admitted at Bologna forum that there are still no scientific guarantees about the reduced risks accredited to iQOS.
BIG POWERS When we talk about tobacco, we cannot avoid thinking about the lobbies and their power of influence, and we should consider some facts. A few months ago Philip Morris announced a €500bn investment on a new generation products factory in Crespellano (Bologna), where they will hire 600 people. After that, they promised Renzi’s Government other €500bn total until 2020 to buy Italian tobacco. Prime Minister Renzi, together with PMI’s top management, attended both the opening of the factory and the signature of the tobacco deal. Furthermore, the Prime Minister was sitting close to PMI’s CEO Andreas Calantzopoulos during the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio.
We should also remember that a “second generation renziano” like FCA’s CEO Sergio Marchionne sits in PMI Italy’s Board, company that is also a sponsor of Ferrari car racing team. In other words, the multinational company seems to be able to activate a wide network of relationships to obtain its goals.
Now the fight will move on the TPD transposition process field. And it will be fun to watch.