“The Tobacco Observatory is an initiative supported by British American Tobacco Italia; its purpose is to promote a picture of widespread and transparent knowledge on tobacco issues. In order to share this objective, the REF (Ricerche Ecomomia Finanza) is starting up the following publication”.
This would not be a problem if it were not for the fact that the AAMS (the Italian State Monopoly) takes this “widespread and transparent knowledge” to the Minister of the period, who says: “Bravi ragazzi, continuate cosi” (“Good boys, continue this way”).
A great number of documents that emerged during the many legal suits in the USA have shown how cigarette producers have been able to buy scientists and “respectable” institutions.
In 2005, the REF strongly attacked the minimum cigarette price: “It is an obstruction to free competition; it violates European Union regulations on the free determination of prices; the EU will intervene”. From this viewpoint, British American Tobacco was logically among those who were “obstructing”.
Then BAT became a “sponsor”. And here comes a different REF that writes on “Tobacco Observatory” that the forecast fiscal revenues have been reached and surpassed; in other words, the minimum price is OK. And this is in spite of the fact that, in the meantime, the European Union recognised Yesmoke's denunciation and started up violation procedures against Italy because the country persists in keeping the minimum price.
On the 16th of July of this year, Laslo Kovacs, European Commissioner for fiscal matters and Customs Union, presented a taxation proposal, which would leave a free hand to the single States to set the minimum excise; this would be ideal for anyone who wants to promote the interests of the tobacco multinationals in Italy.
It is this “free hand” that is the paradox. In fact, if the Italian ass-kissers, so devoted to Philip Morris that they go against the European Union's instructions, are given a free hand on the Excise tax, a situation will be recreated that damages free competition just like the minimum price did; but this time, there is no way to legally oppose the measure, as it has become a European Law.
Yesmoke has analysed and amply commented on the proposal of Laslo Kovacs (view The EU is preparing for the after “Minimum price”), but the Tobacco Observatory has not; it limited itself in its final “analysis” to the publication of the proposed text without offering one single word of comment.
Not only does the REF today pass over the minimum price, but also it makes absolutely no effort to analyse the situation to find a good solution in the interest of the Italian State. Such an analysis would have brought out that the State revenues could be far greater (at least 1.5 billion euro more) with the elimination of the minimum price, and it would have exposed the attempts to bring it back in other forms.
But the REF, actually, came up with another type of analysis: “In this scenario by the end of the year, the expected fiscal income of the sector will be reached and probably surpassed”. So, if the State is satisfied with the revenue it has reached, why not give the surplus to BAT, they must have thought?
1.5 Billion Euro: “Small Change” of Corruption
There are disastrous initiatives, thefts of tens of billions of euro from State funds (Philip Morris's tax evasion of 60 billion euro and the 95 billion tax deficit from slot machines prove it) that are successful thanks to the inability and the lack of preparation of the citizens to understand what is being done with the Italian taxpayers' money.
Before the “sponsorship”, the REF had clear ideas, and so it defined its publication as: “A four-monthly Newsletter that follows the principal major economic issues of the tobacco world in Italy, contributing to the spread of information which, up to today, was available exclusively to a small circle of experts and interested groups, such as the industry, the Revenue Agency and the ex- Agency of the Autonomous State Monopoly”.
The REF added that: “The Tobacco Observatory studies and analyses the relations between the legal sales volumes and the contraband sales volumes of cigarettes, and the variations of the prices and of the tax regime, assessing the consequences on tax revenues, on the industry turnover and on the income of the distributors.”
After the start of the “sponsorship”, all this was set aside. Today not only is the general public not politically represented, but there is no one who can analyse the tobacco situation in an objective and critical way, providing that “picture of widespread and transparent knowledge” that the REF talks about so much.
And those who should study and analyse the market take advantage of the ignorance and the lack of preparation of the people, encouraging low profile operations and even thefts, all to the benefit of those “interested parties” which it should oppose.