Forbidden in the United States, in the European Union and in most of the third world countries because they favor the brand loyalty of teen-agers, in Italy the half-price, 10-cigarette packs have resisted until today, in spite of the repeated requests of the health authorities - the Istituto Superiore della Sanità - for their abolition.
The initiative of Ignazio Marino is contained in a bill, presented with Antonio Tomassini (PDL center-right), that the Commissione Igiene e Sanità (Hygiene and Health Commission) of the Senate is examining in the deliberation stages. It is an important turning point if we think of the conduct of Italian politicians up to today, well-disposed to the interests of cigarette producers; “Lobbies permitting”, said the newspaper Sole 24 Ore.
“The sale is prohibited of packs of cigarettes that contain a number of items under twenty”. With this amendment, Ignazio Marino and Antonio Tomassini‘s bill, inspired by the need to safeguard the health of young people, has become a serious issue from many points of view.
The ten-cigarette pack is an essential element of Big Tobacco's business in Italy. Those who are eliminating it are not performing just a make-up operation with minor, insignificant changes, they are clarifying in an unequivocal way their total disengagement and impartiality before the interests of the powerful cigarette manufacturers.
The 10-cigarette packet, with the imminent abolition of the Minimum Price, would represent a lifesaver for Big Tobacco, and so, it is not just a coincidence that the manufacturers in these past few months have been trying to launch the half-price pack with advertising initiatives, all illegal, of course.
In the bill, Dr. Marino is proposing an excellent information leaflet to be inserted in the packs of cigarettes. It provides the truth and transparency on a product that the manufacturers have always denied to the consumer, and it would substitute the unpresentable and illegal slips Big Tobacco is using today, advertising that no authority has managed or has wanted to stop.
A weak point of the bill can be found in Article 7: it states that the manufacturers are obliged to conduct qualitative and quantitative analyses on a long series of substances, including ammonia, nitrosamines, etc. and the Istituto Superiore di Sanità is authorized to verify the results of these analyses.
In this way, the “self-certification”, which has been adopted until today would remain, with the designated organs that check only the values of nicotine, tar and CO; for the rest they have to trust Big Tobacco.
Worthy of note are the changes made to Article 4, which in the first version of the bill, the one presented in 2007, said: “the sale and the purchase from a distance or via Internet of tobacco products are forbidden”. An administrative pecuniary sanction was also indicated - from 100 to 500 euro, but this has all been cancelled.
Now Article 4, paragraph 1 states: “The sale of packs of cigarettes containing a number of pieces less than twenty is forbidden”. …. A great change!
Private Interests and Public Health
The tobacco market in Italy is the theater of conflicting situations between private interests, the rights of the collectivity and public health, in the total disinterest of the organs of information.
However, if on one hand, the market seems armored around the interests of a few companies, on the other hand, those companies are in an untenable situation, destined to change inevitably and quickly.
In fact, today consumer protection and information on the world of tobacco are beginning to become fashionable, and certain business techniques are destined to become less and less presentable in modern democracies, and unacceptable for informed consumers.
Those who are honest and have the foresight and courage to oppose, with concrete actions, all forms of blind power and commercial interests, provide an unequivocal model of rectitude and fairness, and show that they have the right qualities to improve Italy.