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BAT reacts to Italian health authorities’ surprise suspension of Velo pouch sales

British American Tobacco (BAT) did not expect the temporary sales suspension of its Velo nicotine pouches in Italy, ordered by health authorities, and is prepared to take action to protect its rights.

Italy’s Ministry of Health suspended retail sales of Velo pouches in the country at the end of December, pending a content and safety analysis by the government’s Higher Institute of Health (ISS).

A spokesperson for BAT in Italy told TobaccoIntelligence the group was “surprised by the minister of health’s measure”, as Velo pouches are “absolutely compliant with the current law and subsequent prescriptions”, and they are registered in the country’s Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM)’s list of products authorised for sale.

“BAT Italia is absolutely prepared to provide further clarifications and to collaborate with the competent authorities and institutions, while also reserving the option to protect our rights,” the spokesperson said.

 

Health and safety issues

 

According to the Italian branch of the tobacco giant, Velo pouches – which have so far not been removed from the ADM’s list of nicotine products authorised for sale – had already been examined by the country’s health authorities before being launched in Italy.

“Results did not show any elements against [the introduction of the products to the Italian market],” BAT pointed out, adding that “Velo is already sold in 29 countries, and no issues concerning consumers’ health or security have so far been detected.”

Italy’s Ministry of Health, though, said that – based on the same results provided by the ISS in November 2021 – the consumption of Velo pouches may affect human health at a systemic level.

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    “The calculated value, even if only for exposure to one pouch with the minimum nicotine content of 1.5 mg per day, was higher than the referral value of the derived non-effect level (DNEL),” the ministry said in its suspension note. The DNEL is the level of non-effect on humans when looked at on a systemic basis, the ministry added.

    Velo products on sale in Italy will now have to be re-tested by the ISS. Meanwhile, retailers will no longer be allowed to sell or display them in their stores – pending the results.

    Based on Italian laws, Velo’s manufacturer BAT can appeal against the measure before the Lazio Administrative Tribunal (TAR) – Italy’s highest administrative court – within 60 days of its notification.

     

    Made in Italy

     

    In June last year, BAT inaugurated a new production hub for “potentially reduced risk products” in the north-eastern city of Trieste, where Velo pouches are now manufactured.

    The group said it invested €500m over five years in the hub, adding that it expected it to create up to 2,700 local jobs.

    – Tiziana Cauli TobaccoIntelligence staff

    Photo: Jakubdrastich2

    Tiziana Cauli

    Senior reporter
    Tiziana is an Italian journalist from Sardinia. She has worked for both international and local media in Italy, South Africa, France, Spain, the UK, Lebanon and Belgium. She also worked as a communications manager for several international NGOs in the humanitarian sector. Tiziana holds a degree in Political Science and a PhD in African Studies from the University of Cagliari and she’s a graduate of the Carlo De Martino school of journalism in Milan.

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