Italian e-cigarette firms say new tax benefits tobacco

admin   •   March 2, 2015   •   2401

A man uses an E-cigarette, an electronic substitute in the form of a rod, slightly longer than a normal cigarette, in this March 5, 2013 file illustration picture taken in Paris.
CREDIT: REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/FILES

(Reuters) – Electronic cigarette firms in Italy say a new levy that doubles the price of e-liquid refills unfairly helps tobacco giants like Philip Morris International and will hurt their industry.

The tax, which was adopted in January, is set at half the rate of that on traditional cigarettes. The controversy centers on the fact that the lower rate is applied to both electronic cigarettes and to tobacco products such as Marlboro HeatSticks, which Philip Morris is launching in Italy alongside a 500 million euro ($568 million) factory investment.

E-cigarette companies say applying the discount to tobacco products is unfair, and designed to help Big Tobacco. The firms and industry experts also say the method of calculating the tax is too complicated and gives an unfair discount to Philip Morris’ products.

“It’s unjust,” said Massimiliano Mancini, president of ANAFE-Confindustria, a national trade association of e-cig and e-liquids producers. “It’s clear that this legislation has been drafted for other interests than just taxing the e-cigs.” He declined to elaborate.

Philip Morris would not comment on whether the new law gave it an advantage. “We have shared our views with the government via public hearings just like our competitors and others,” a spokesman told Reuters by email.

It pledged last year to make HeatSticks and other “reduced risk” products in a new factory in Bologna. Shortly before the plant’s inauguration, the firm’s CEO in Italy, Eugenio Sidoli, told the Senate Finance Committee that he welcomed the new tax rules, saying they would create “a certain and stable” regulatory outlook for the kind of investment his company was making.

Italy is one of the first countries to tax e-cigarettes; the European Union is considering the idea. The devices do not use tobacco, which contains hundreds of toxins, but instead heat liquids laced with nicotine. Many scientists agree the products are probably safer than conventional cigarettes.

Other new devices such as Marlboro HeatSticks do use tobacco and have not yet been tested to the same degree. Unless studies prove they are as safe as e-cigarettes, e-cig firms say, they should not be taxed at the lower rate.

In all, Italy collects around 12 billion euros a year in tobacco taxes. Philip Morris’ products account for 7.5 billion euros of that, according to the testimony Sidoli gave the Senate committee last October.

But Italy’s tobacco tax take has declined by more than 500 million euros since 2013. The government has said that’s partly due to the rise in e-cigarette sales. It began to think about taxing the devices in 2013 and initially introduced a tax that more than tripled e-liquid prices, and also applied to batteries and chargers sold with e-cigarettes.

That tax was blocked by Italian courts as too confusing, forcing Rome to rethink its plans. But e-cigarette distributors and some big tobacco companies object to the latest scheme, too.

The drawn-out controversy has hurt the industry in Italy, e-cig backers say. While e-cigarette use has been growing globally, the number of regular “vapers” in Italy has slumped to 255,000 from almost half a million in 2013, health ministry figures show. Thousands of e-cigarette shops have closed.

Italy’s Economy Ministry declined to comment.

“ABSENCE OF COMBUSTION”

Italy’s new law assumes that e-cigarettes are safer and should be taxed at a lower rate than traditional cigarettes. The e-cigarette lobby welcomes this but objects to extending that discount to other new products, such as the tobacco-based systems sold in Italy by Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which heat tobacco in pen-like devices. The Philip Morris system uses tobacco sticks that look like mini cigarettes while JTI’s system, called Ploom, uses aluminum pods filled with tobacco.

Philip Morris says HeatSticks, which it is also testing in Japan, are potentially less harmful than traditional cigarettes “because they are not intended to be lit on fire and smoked, but rather heated and vaped.”

But neither it nor JTI include health claims in their marketing for heat-not-burn products. Philip Morris expects to have more scientific evidence during the first half of this year, its CEO told analysts earlier this month.

Even so, Italian lawmakers said in the tax decree that a tax discount on such products was justified by the “absence of combustion” which gives them “minor toxicity” compared with traditional cigarettes.

Valerio Forconi, Corporate Affairs and Legal Director in the Italian branch of tobacco giant Imperial Tobacco, says the principle of the tax is wrong.

Imperial, whose subsidiary Fontem Ventures plans to launch a new e-cig model in Rome in March, does not object to the tax charge, he said, but believes it is too high compared to tobacco products. Philip Morris’ HeatSticks can be lit and smoked, according to Forconi. This makes Italy perhaps “the only country in the world” that effectively gives Philip Morris a tax discount on smoking.

Philip Morris said HeatSticks should not be lit and smoked. “If burned,” the spokesman said, “the experience would not be pleasurable.”

(Additional reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Steve Scherer in Rome; Edited by Simon Robinson)

Nokia workers protest against planned job cuts in Paris

UNTV News   •   July 9, 2020

Several hundred Nokia workers protested in Paris on Wednesday (July 8) against plans to cut over 1,200 jobs in its French subsidiary Alcatel-Lucent International.

Nokia has said most of the layoffs would come from research and development (R&D) teams. Unions say this is incomprehensible when Europe is preparing to deploy the next generation mobile network.

Member of the French parliament from the ruling party LaRem, Eric Bothorel, who was elected in the northwestern region of Côtes-d’Armor, where there are planned job cuts, said Nokia’s announcement came just after the date set releasing the company from commitments to preserve jobs.

Nokia was bound to job retention commitments when it acquired Alcatel Lucent in 2015. They expired in June.

Bothorel said the move was “making fun of the government” as it targeted people who were recently hired.

Nokia says it will continue to be a major employer in France with a strong foothold in R&D. (Reuters)

(Production: Emilie Delwarde, Thierry Chiarello, Yiming Woo, Ardee Napolitano)

Paris airport’s ‘new normal’ comes with UV tunnel and thermal cameras

UNTV News   •   June 26, 2020

Orly Airport has ramped up security measures as it prepares to resume commercial flights after a nearly three-month hiatus.

With lockdown restrictions easing and Europe starting to open up its borders, scheduled flights will start on Friday (June 26), with a 6:00 a.m. Paris-Porto flight kicking off departures.

Passengers can no longer enter the terminals with non-flying companions, and wearing masks is required, Orly Airport’s passengers control officer Nathalie Chailly said.

Alcohol gel dispensers are available across the terminals, and floor markings urge social distancing. Thermal cameras are in place at the arrival area, where passengers with a temperature of 38 degrees or above can benefit from a medical consultation, but will not be forced to go under quarantine.

Tech firm LabScience has a developed a prototype of an ultraviolet-rays decontaminating tunnel, being tested at Orly Airport. The tunnel uses a high concentration of ultraviolet light over 4 to 5 seconds to kill micro-organisms on a piece of luggage or a coat, before the objects are scanned by x-ray.

Orly, the second biggest airport serving the capital, was shut to passengers on March 31.

Around 74 departures and arrivals in total are scheduled for Friday, compared to a usual load of 600 flights a day, according to Orly Airport.

Only domestic flights and flights to and from Schengen countries and France’s overseas departments will be flying out of Orly, through companies including Air France, Air Caraibe, Transavia and Wizz Air. The airport is expecting around 8,500 passengers on Friday, sharply down from the daily average of 90,000 passengers before the pandemic.

Duty-free shops will also re-open on Friday. (Reuters)

(Production: Antony Paone, Michaela Cabrera)

France to reopen on Monday, Paris region to unwind lockdown more slowly

UNTV News   •   May 8, 2020

France is ready to start unwinding its coronavirus lockdown from next Monday as planned, the prime minister said on Thursday (May 7), although some regions including the Paris area where the disease is still circulating would keep some restrictions.

The country has made enough progress in slowing down the spread of the virus and reducing strain in hospitals to gradually return to normal, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told a news conference. Schools, cafes and most shops have been shut for nearly two months.

Beyond the Paris area, administrative regions around Calais, Strasbourg and Dijon will also remain classified as “red zones”, where some restrictions will remain – such as keeping parks, gardens and secondary schools shut.

In other parts of France, secondary schools, cafes and restaurants may open from early June if the infection rate remains low, Philippe said.

In Paris, commuters will need permission forms from their employers to use the metro or buses at peak hours and across France the wearing of masks on public transport will be compulsory and enforced by a fine of 135 euros.

Next week, about 1 million children and 130,000 teachers will return to school, the education minister said.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that following the lifting of the lockdown the country’s borders would remain closed until further notice.

Philippe said on Thursday that the government would reinforce restrictions if the spread of the new coronavirus accelerated again.

The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in France was up 178 or 0.7% to 25,987 on Thursday, the lowest rate of increase in four days. (Reuters)

(Production: Johnny Cotton)

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