Cigarette Taxes in Italy – Lobbyists Unleashed

“An increase in fiscal pressure would push consumers towards the illegal market, because only a policy of gradual increases of the list prices and the capillary distribution system have enabled us to keep smuggling under control.”

These are the words of the undersecretary of the Economy Alberto Giorgetti, speaking at the round table “Verso una regolamentazione bilanciata del settore tabacco” (Towards a Balanced Regulation of the Tobacco Sector) held on last October 13th. The meeting was promoted by the Industry, Commerce and Tourist Commission of the Senate, and funded, it is worth noting, by the “friends” of British American Tobacco.

The “gradual increases,” according to Onorevole Giorgetti, would be those implemented by the tobacco manufacturers when they decide to raise their prices and earn more; this is not to be confused with an increase of the tax pressure. And the “capillary distribution system” he refers to is nothing more than the tobacco shops.

According to Giorgetti’s thinking, smuggling is not a problem when the price of cigarettes increases because of the decision of a cartel of foreign manufacturers, while it does become a problem if the same increase is due to higher taxation. This is ridiculous, but we are in Italy, and everyone seems to believe it, or they pretend to believe it.

The Big Tobacco Lobby Has Done “a Good Job”

In Italy the excise tax on tobacco products is 58.5%, while in France, for example, it is 64%. Since 2004, cigarettes have regularly become more and more expensive in Italy without making any changes to the excise, allowing Philip Morris to reach profits of more than 500% on its Marlboros – this can be done only in Italy.

Murales at the Yesmoke factory in Settimo Torinese

Murales at the Yesmoke factory in Settimo Torinese

The multinationals earn more in Italy than in France, while the Italian State earns less tax revenues than France. Why is it that not a single information organ, no politician and no consumers’ association in Italy ever brings up the subject of the low level of tobacco taxation? On the contrary, they speak up only to warn about the risks of smuggling … but only in the case of a tax increase. The ridiculous fact is that they are all sponsored by British American Tobacco.

But the European Court of Justice Sentence of June 23rd of last year abolishing the minimum tax on cigarettes, which in Italy has not been respected, specifies that the price increases must be made by raising the tax pressure to assist the treasuries of the States; prices are not to be determined only according to the manufacturers’ wishes. But this court ruling seems to be inexistent at all the round tables, no one seems to have heard anything about it.

Recent Acts of Subservience to Big Tobacco

In our Belpaese the “bootlickers” of foreign cigarette manufacturers are countless. Politicians, journalists, consumer associations, consultants and professors… are all in the front row. It seems like Italians will go to any lengths to be hired “at the service” of a multinational. Here are some recent examples:

Giuseppe De Rita, the president of Censis

Giuseppe De Rita, the president of Censis

The Censis, a primary Italian social and economic research institution, at its last round table of October 13th, funded by BAT and promoted by the Industry Commerce and Tourism Commission of the Senate, congratulated Italy because in these years it has not implemented “shock” policies of tax hikes. According to the Censis–BAT study: “Public opinion does not have a full perception of the weight of fiscal charges on the final price. But it is a fact that 33% of smokers are opposed to any hypothesis of tax rises because the taxes are already adequate, 24% of smokers think the taxes should be reduced.

It is obvious that consumers do not want to pay higher prices. This is no great revelation, and they even conducted a survey! At this point, doubts come spontaneous: What is the Censis? What personages consort in it? Who is behind it all? Who is paying, besides BAT?

Even the Visentini and Luiss Foundations, unfailingly backed by BAT, spoke up siding with the Censis to present their reports:

“Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the cost increases of the pack.”

It is easy to see that these two trendy foundations are referring to the awareness of the cost increases due to taxes, not the awareness of the cost increases that only add to the profits of the manufacturers.

Giovanni Carucci, vice president of BAT Italia, almost makes us feel sorry for him as he concluded the works of the round table: «Verso una regolamentazione bilanciata del settore tabacco» (Towards a Balanced Regulation of the Tobacco Sector) (where the term balanced is an entire program…). To the Censis and numerous representatives of the Italic «intelligentsia», he explained: “More than three quarters of the value of the product is made up of taxation, we have reached the limit and we have made the institutions aware of it.” In response to these ridiculous statements, an audience of ignoramuses and prats of the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Commission of the Senate applauded their sponsor.

Italian Parasites?

«Anti-BigTobacco» murals in Yesmoke’s Settimo Torinese factory

«Anti-BigTobacco» murals in Yesmoke’s Settimo Torinese factory

The portrait and the reputation that the Italian “intelligentsia” offers to the world is that of a corrupt country, a nation with an inured population and a natural propensity for underhand games.

The distressing superficiality and lack of preparation of our politicians, professors and journalists reveal their scarce inclination for study and investigation, it is typical of a mental acquiescence found in populations that opt to live as parasites.

So, on issues of elementary school level, like the taxation of tobacco, there are those who can do anything they want in Italy, because they know from the start that the “intelligentsia” of this country will never understand anything.


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