Who does not know cigarettes. With their sinuous charm, the intoxicating scent and that mysterious air that they know how to give to those who decide to use them. On the other side of the coin are the problems related to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, damage to the skin and teeth, not to mention that unpleasant and difficult smell. A sensual and lethal machine of money and death, on which for decades the debate on the damages and deaths that are caused by smoking every year. What can be done to discourage people from smoking? A question that is difficult to answer and that, over the years, has seen several attempts fail, from slight price increases to shocking photos on packages. The latest proposal comes from the Umberto Veronesi Foundation in Milan which, through a petition, wants to present to Parliament the proposal to increase the excise duties on tobacco by ensuring that a packet of cigarettes costs at least 10 euros.
The idea comes precisely to limit the massacre that takes place every year between one blonde and another, with cigarettes that, to make a cinematic quote, become coffin nails: “An estimated 8 million deaths due to smoking every year, of which almost 900 thousand caused by passive smoking – reads a note from the Foundation – In Italy over 93 thousand deaths a year are attributed to tobacco smoke, about 43 thousand from cancer. More than a quarter of deaths concern people who are still young, between 35 and 65 years of age. The human price is very high and the economic price is estimated at over 26 billion euros, if we consider direct costs on health care costs and indirect costs linked to the loss of productivity due to illness or death “. The Foundation defines this solution as “cost-effective”, with the aim of allocating more resources to scientific research, prevention programs, early diagnosis and cessation programs.
The petition’s objective is twofold: to help support an open and rational debate and to promote greater public awareness. The price increase affects consumption, especially in a crucial segment such as young people, and helps mobilize resources useful for treating those who fall ill due to tobacco, those who want to quit, those who want to do independent research. The experience of other countries is demonstrating the usefulness of this type of measure and that the margins for action are wide. ” In Italy – highlights the Foundation – tobacco prices remain among the lowest in Western Europe ”. Three central recommendations in the petition presented to Parliament: a substantial increase in excise duty, such as to bring the price of the packet of cigarettes to at least 10 euros, which according to current estimates could lead to an increase in tax revenues of 5.4 billion euros and to sell 800 million fewer packages; that the price increase applies not only to cigarettes, but also to loose tobacco and heated tobacco; that the proceeds from the increase are destined for activities useful for preventing and treating the diseases caused by smoking, for which adequate resources and investments are currently lacking.
But are cigarettes really so cheap in Italy? And do you really smoke less in countries where they cost more? In the European range of cigarette prices, Italy is actually almost halfway between the places where a packet costs even more than 10 euros, such as in Great Britain, Norway, and those where it even costs only one euro, as in Moldova or Belarus. In the middle we have France with about 8 euros per package or Germany with 7: all price differences dictated precisely by the different tax impositions (there is a specific excise duty and an ad valorem one) and by the anti-smoking policies of the various governments. What are the effects?
In Scandinavia or the United Kingdom, where the price of tobacco is higher, people smoke less: obviously, the increase is almost directly proportional to the disincentive effect. In fact, only in the case of increases of more than two euros is consumption really discouraged. But bringing the cost of cigarettes to 10 euros in Italy would almost double it, given that currently the price is between 5 and 6 euros per pack. A drastic increase which, despite starting with excellent conditions and being driven by a positive goal such as personal and common health, risks triggering dynamics that are not always positive. In fact, it should be remembered that smokers are notoriously very fond of their habit, even enough not to get too much trouble in case of price increases. It is not easy to get into a smoker’s head, but dissuading him from this bad habit is complicated: it seems absurd to say it, but those who smoke know well the effects it has on their body, yet continue the same, undeterred and without batting an eye. If a person does not worry when his own health is at stake, why should he be scrupulous about a few euros?
Obviously every smoker has his own number of cigarettes, his personal condition and his life, which is why one cannot generalize, but the increase in the price of cigarettes could undoubtedly have effects. About who? Obviously about who has less money. Not only people with no income but also young people, who often approach smoking to imitate friends or feel ” older ”, but who usually do not have a great deal of money. On some consumer groups, the increase to 10 euros could have benevolent effects, but not on all. A possible increase of this kind (if it became a reality) would discourage young people above all, but it would undoubtedly also provoke a wave of protests across the country. Furthermore, as happens with drugs, an increase in the prices of ” legal ” cigarettes could also stimulate the market for smuggled blondes, thus fattening not the state coffers, but those of the underworld. Therefore, the increases are welcome, which maybe will remove cigarettes from the hands of those who smoke for fashion, but to solve this huge problem, something else will also be needed. The real smoker, the inveterate one, will always find a way to make ends meet, perhaps giving up some other whim, so as not to have to cross blondes from his shopping list.
Obviously, these are only the devil’s advocate’s assumptions that any smoker can make, but one who knows well what the raw truth is: when the desire to smoke arrives, it will not be the 10 euro to appease it. Quitting smoking is more complicated than a mere economic discourse, it is a personal and inner journey, often painful, which leads a human being to dig inside himself, until he finds the origin of that addiction and the right motivation to be able to break it. Every smoker knows that sooner or later, sooner or later, he will have to face this path. How to help people quit smoking? Perhaps the starting point is right there, in the motivation.