We are hearing that, yesterday, the Italian grass roots consumer group Associazione Nazionale per i Vapers Uniti (The National Association of United Vapers) has written to the Deputy Chairman of the Italian Council of Ministers, Hon. Matteo Salvini, to protest the Italian government’s treatment of vaping products.

The ANPVU launched in April with its primary objective being to promote harm reduction and introduce smokers to safer ways of using nicotine. This has been difficult in Italy which enforces a blatantly anti-vaping agenda by way of policies designed more to raise tax than to encourage smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives.

Since the start of the year, the Italian government has applied taxation to e-liquid to such an extent that a 10ml bottle costs nearly double the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes. These taxes were applied retrospectively meaning that vaping businesses were left with a bill for paying duty on products they had sold well before the date of the new regulations, and the government has effectively monopolised sales of e-cigarettes and vaping-related products, so they can only be sold by tobacconists and specialized shops. Online sales of e-liquids have also been banned along with imports from other countries, all advertising is prohibited and there is even taxation on PG and VG.

The Italian government is not shy in admitting that it is doing this for purely financial reasons, to recover the loss of tax revenue on cigarettes that former smokers have stopped buying thanks to e-cigarettes. Italy’s Constitutional Court, incredibly, declared that “the recovery of revenue eroded by the electronic cigarette market” is a legitimate policy for the government to implement.

To say this is brazenly greedy and to the detriment of the public health of Italians is an understatement.

ANVPU President Carmine Canino has written to the government on behalf of Italy’s 1.3 million vapers to appeal to ministers to put the health of Italian citizens before tax revenue. Carmine writes:

“[Italian smokers] demand the right information, the possibility to easily access harm reduction products without being penalised financially, and to look to the English model for political conscience which should be replicated in every Italian parliamentarian.

“We await a rethink, a signal that makes it incontrovertibly clear that the first duty of our institutions is the citizen.

“Our concern as consumers … is that by persisting with the current tax, a smoker who wants to quit will still be faced with bad information, and the impossibility of finding liquids at a reasonable price.

“This sector is like a terminally ill patient who, at present, is afflicted by the disease of consumption tax.”

Canino finishes with a plea to the government to recognize the potential of the vaping sector to benefit public health and to promote it by regulating it sensibly, rather than putting economic concerns above the right of Italians to have access to healthier choices.

As fellow members of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Associations (INNCO), we at the NNA applaud and support the ANVPU’s action on this and wish them every success. It is quite shameful that the Italian government can so blatantly put tax receipts above the health of their population, and we hope that yesterday’s letter may prick a few institutional consciences in Rome.