“If all those who smoke traditional cigarettes decide to smoke cigarettes without tobacco - electronic cigarettes - at least 30,000 lives will be saved each year in Italy and 500 million in the world,” Veronesi, scientific director of the European Institute of Oncology (IEO), told La Repubblica on Tuesday.
The tumour specialist called on the government to address the health implications of smoking, arguing that for too long the government has focused solely on the economics of the cigarette trade.
“The debate on tobacco-free cigarettes has concentrated above all on the market: who sells them, those hidden business interests...few have lingered on the heart of the question of the health of citizens,” he said.
Earlier this year the government agreed to scrap a 58.5 percent tax on electronic cigarettes. Veronesi said the proposal alone forced many e-cigarette producers to abandon the product.
The smoke-free cigarette industry has created around 5,000 jobs in Italy, while 2,000 e-cigarette shops have opened across the country in recent years. Taxing the industry was set to rake in €35 million.
Veronesi said the government failed to see e-cigarettes as an opportunity to improve public health, instead profiting from the sale of regular cigarettes.
“Even our state, through the monopoly on cigarette packets, makes money out of this tragedy, instead of fighting it with all the means scientific research puts at their disposal,” he said.
Researching smoke-free cigarettes is a “moral duty”, according to Veronesi, and one he said he would discuss with Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin.
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