Philip Morris knocks at Palazzo Chigi, and the Government answers with a fiscal gift
The tobacco colossus influences the drafts of the Board of Ministers. Last Thursday night during the news show Virus (Rai 2) Mr. Luigi Bisignani, Italy’s most famous business mediator, said: “They [PMI] were worried about about possible new taxes on their new hybrid cigarette”, and added that they were going to meet Mr. Renzi urgently because they felt threatened by the upcoming budget law.
The “modified” drafts and the innovative “pod”
Something similar happened in the last days, while the Government was approving the TPD transposition decree, which will rewrite the rules of the sector. The men of the cigarettes colossus held urgent meetings at the Presidency’s EU Policies Department just before the green light to the text. Why? In the draft that entered the Board’s pre-meeting there was a stricter regulation to the “new generation products”. At the moment, in Italy the only one is iQOS, the new heated tobacco pod produced by Philip Morris in the Bologna factory opened last October 2014 with PM Renzi attending.
After a tobacco lobbies’ war, the Ministry of Healthcare obtained a delegation of powers to draft a decree “together with the Ministry of the Economy and Finances within 6 months starting by May 20th, 2016, to establish the procedures through which the Ministry and the Superior Institute of Health will evaluate the available information and studies about the new products”. But at the moment there are no independent studies. Philip Morris is waiting for the FDA’s certification. The US colossus fought until the last moment to bring the ball only in the hands of the Ministry of the Economy, but it will be the Ministry of Healthcare managing the game. The risk certification provided by the Ministry of Healthcare presents some consequences, like a total ban on advertising. More than this.
After some intense meetings, something changed, and the drafts which entered Palazzo Chigi in one way, they got modified, and in both of them we can see a win for Philip Morris together with a fiscal gift. In fact, in the final draft of the decree the “product registration tariffs” curiously disappeared. And while the e-cigarettes got hit, the article regarding the “new generation products” tariffs has been deleted with the stroke of a pen. Then, it full disappeared in the text sent to the Parliament. Translation: A blow for the competition, but not for iQOS.
Lobbying war and favours
It is all very similar to what happened in summer 2014, when Philip Morris obtained a 50% excise discount on its product. By the way, Mr. Bisignani added that British American Tobacco – PM Renzi’s foundation biggest backer (100k euros), and a company that recently bought advertising on the Democratic Party’s newspaper, L’Unità – is now fearing a blow for its low price cigarettes (Lucky strike and Pall Mall).
Well, it seems like that the “Palazzo Chigi merchant bank”, the one that at the time of former Prime Minister Dalia was the only one in the world where the English language is not spoken” (copyright by Mr. Guido Rossi, one of Italy’s most famous lawyers), has now become something different, something slicker: the crossway of a lobbying war.
- Download the article in .pdf (Italian)