Electronic Smoking: Tough Times Ahead For Companies Targeting The Italian Market

Since the late 80ies it's always been almost impossible to advertise tobacco products throughout the European Union. Directive no. 89/552/EEC introduced a strict and general ban as to "all forms of television advertising for cigarettes and other tobacco products" (so Article 13), while Directive no. 2003/33/EC set restrictions or bans with respect to advertising and sponsoring of tobacco products in other media (see Articles 3, 4 and 5).

In recent times Directive no. 2010/13/EU has confirmed a total and general ban of "all forms of audiovisual commercial communications for cigarettes and other tobacco products" provided by media service providers (so Article 9/1/d). In addition, it prevents "undertakings whose principal activity is the manufacture or sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products" from sponsoring "audiovisual media services or programmes" (so Article 10/2).

To no one's surprise companies active in this critical sector area have welcomed electronic smoking devices (so-called "e-cigs") as a viable alternative to traditional tobacco products. In Italy over the last two years shops distributing such devices have been set up at an impressive speed and in simply booming numbers. Big Tobacco has realized the business potential and has shifted significant investment to production and distribution of e-cigs.

In parallel criticism against such devices has grown and concern about potential negative effects was voiced. Regulators are therefore deserving increased scrutiny to the phenomenon and recently a special Advisory Board ("Consiglio Superiore di Sanità") has released a formal opinion and recommendations to the State Department for Public Health on the use of e-cigs. In detail the Advisory board: (a) called for a ban of such smoking devices at school and in public places, (b) recommended particular caution when such devices are used by individuals falling into 'risk categories' (e. g. pregnant or breastfeeding women), (c) strongly suggested that such devices should not be available for sale to minors of age (i. e. under the age of 18) when their cartridges contain nicotine, (d) proposed to establish a special 'Observatory' in charge of monitoring the effects deriving from the use of e-cigs, (e) finally, called for specific regulation both as to labeling and consumer information as well as to advertising of such devices.


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