The conflict. The decree implementing the EU directive includes restrictions on every product except on those manufactured by Philip Morris in Bologna. Testimonial. Prime Minister Renzi unveiled the plant in October, a heavy blow on e-cigs. Coup on traceability.
The rule is always the same: invest and you will be rewarded. The tobacco war has been going on for months, and now it has reached the final epilogue. The conflict between cigarette lobbies is being played between two parties: Philip Morris against those manufacturers who have entered, or are about to enter, the e-cigarette sector. And PMI can count on an exceptional testimonial, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, but also on the goodwill of some ministries.
THE BATTLEGROUND is the legislative decree implementing Directive 2014/40/EU, which revises the industry’s rules by introducing strict limitations: from shocking images on the packs to penalties for sales-to-minors violations. A blow that affects everyone. With one exception, manufacturers of e-cigs that are members of Anafe (Confindustria): the “next-generation tobacco products”, a category introduced by the Directive, which currently counts only one of them, belonging to Philip Morris. It is iQOS, the smokeless tobacco cigarette stick (thus less harmful) sold in Milan, whose refills will be produced in the plant located near Bologna – a €500 million investment for 600 jobs – unveiled last October by Matteo Renzi in person. The Prime Minister also attended the signing of the contract with which Philip Morris – which last December obtained for iQOS cigarettes the same excise duty discount (50%) applied to e-cigs – has guaranteed tobacco producers purchases for €500 million by 2020.
It is no coincidence that, during recent interministerial round tables, the Ministry of Agriculture was spearheading efforts to maintain the current structure of the decree. Which, according to the draft obtained by Il Fatto Quotidiano, only marginally affects iQOS cigarettes. For example, these are excluded from the advertising ban and the restrictions on distance selling established for e-cigs (a U-turn on the matter is under consideration). Also, accurate analysis of the health risks of e-cigarettes are foreseen, but not for “next-generation products.” At a recent sector conference held in Bologna, Philip Morris’s competitor Imperial Tobacco (which has launched its JAI e-cigarette) released a study that showed higher toxicity of iQOS cigarettes compared with electronic cigarettes. To date, there are no third-party studies on the product created by the US giant, which has said to be waiting for a decision by the US Food and Drug Administration.
This is a topic of great interest to the Ministry of Health that is currently deprived of control, which it claims. At the last meeting, the ministry led by Beatrice Lorenzin allegedly raised the matter again, after seeing the approach of the Ministry of Agriculture and that of Economic Development led by Federica Guidi. During the week, there will be a meeting between the two ministers to unravel the tangle that is paralyzing the report.
Another issue is the traceability system for tobacco products. A decree issued last December decided to set aside the tax stamp with the image of the state monopoly, leaving it to a decision of ministerial regulation. The Directive provides for the introductions to come into effect from 2019, but to Il Fatto’s knowledge, there is already draft regulation to anticipate the implementation to 2017, as required by the US. The major tobacco companies have created a home-made track and trace system called Codentify, developed by Philip Morris in collaboration with the other giants, but they are not looking forward to speeding things up. What is certain is that the Government has decided not to launch a public tender, leaving manufacturers to choose. This is in contrast with the provisions of a protocol by the World Health Organisation ratified by France, and not by Italy, a few days ago.
DATA SHEET – THE TEXT of the Decree to implement Directive 2014/40/EU is under discussion between the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Treasury and Economic Development and will be approved by 15 October. The Decree revises the rules of the industry by imposing strict limits, especially for e-cigs, direct competitors of iQOS cigarettes produced by PMI, which are not subject to the same restrictions on advertising, sales and analysis on health risks.