On April 13th 2011, the Civil Court of Rome declared inadmissible the class action submitted by the Codacons, Italy’s main consumer association, against British American Tobacco Italia, in favor of the smokers of BAT’s MS, Pall Mall and Lucky Strike cigarettes. On the 30th of January 2012 the Court of Appeals also turned down the petition.
According to the Codacons, BAT was using chemical cocktails to increase the nicotine addiction effects of its products. Therefore, 3.5 million hypothetical smokers of its brands should be awarded 3,000 euro each, for a total of 10.5 billion euro.
The class action of the Codacons was, no doubt, just an awkward show whose outcome was a foregone conclusion (just consider the fact that the smokers are not identifiable). But the move did point out a real problem: no one is allowed to know the characteristics or the dosages of the substances added to the cigarettes sold in tobacco shops, and the Italian Justice system hasn’t the guts to do anything about it.
Big Tobacco Is Playing on its Home Field
According to the judges of the 13th section of the Civil Court of Rome who rejected the class action, Franca Mangano, Maurizio Maselli and Annalisa Chiarenza, consumers are sufficiently aware of the risks of smoking to health.
But today in Italy and in the EU, a producer who wants to chemically enhance his cigarettes can do so. In fact, the State checks only the levels of nicotine, tar and CO, and it “trusts” the manufacturers to handle all the rest based on a sort of "self-certification". But if the law does not supervise the checks, who can guarantee that today in Italy those "gentlemen" of the cigarette multinationals do not alter the chemistry of their nicotine?
The Italian judges’ opinion, confirmed on appeal, and differing diametrically from that of their American colleagues, demonstrates a state of subservience without precedence to the tobacco multinationals, and their incredible exaltation of cigarette additives seems to have been written by a publicity agent:
“The use of additives is justified by the intent to attribute to the product a specific and a typical taste; as such it is indispensable to enable the manufacturer to be competitive on the market… In other words these additives, of all types reduce the harshness of the smoke, the dryness in the mouth and throat, giving a particular taste (even sweet) to the smoke, but they do not have addictive effects nor do they serve the purpose of increasing the smoker’s relationship of dependency on nicotine”.
This italic judgment contradicts all the studies and all the literature on the subject when it explains to us that … anyone can quit smoking whenever he wants.
“The effects of nicotine, in light of research and of medical and scientific studies, cannot be compared to heavy drugs like heroin and cocaine, and cigarettes do not have the same influence on the will of the smoker that would make him unable to quit smoking”.
The Peculiarities of the Codacons
It remains unclear why the Codacons promoted this show with its inevitable conclusion, and why only against BAT. Why didn’t it involve also the other two bigs of the Italian tobacco market, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco with their popular Marlboros and Camels. Could Lucky Strikes be worse?
The Codacons is not new to such odd behavior. As when they lined up alongside Big Tobacco and against the European Union "to protect the health of the Italians" in the lawsuit that led to the abolition of the minimum price of cigarettes… that minimum price that protected, most of all, the health of the manufacturers’ wallets.
Codacons - Coordinamento delle Associazioni per la Difesa dell'Ambiente e dei Diritti degli Utenti e dei Consumatori (Coordination of the Associations for the Protectioon of the Environment and the Rights of Users and Consumers).