The economic system of state monopolies was created to meet the needs of citizens for security, order and social safeguards, while filling a regulatory role meant to guarantee that goods for which there is a fundamental need in light of their specific nature, can be utilised and enjoyed by all. Monopolies were initially developed by the Greeks, who applied the system to olive oil, salt, papyrus, fishing products, mines and banks. Rome established its first monopoly on the minting of coins in the 1st century, extending it to salt, cinnabars, and mining products, as well as the services of heralds, barbers, cobblers and others, in the 4tn century.
In the Middle Ages there were state or private monopolies (in the form of tendered concessions) on the minting of coins and the production and sale of salt. Sovereigns also distributed, at their discretion, monopoly-like privileges in the sectors of production, purchases and sales. One wholly private monopoly was that established by the Medici family of Florence on the export of alum, in the 15th century.
Between the end of the 16th century and the middle of the 18th, monopolies prospered more or less everywhere: the State monopolised tobacco products, gun powder, chemical products and other items of mass consumption. In 1862, the Italian State placed a monopoly on the production and distribution of salt and tobacco products, in order to maximise state revenues from the connected economic activities.
Ever since, the monopoly on tobacco has been managed directly by the State, through a number of different bodies that have filled the role over the years:
- 1862-1868 General Directorate of Taxes and Duties;
- 1868-1883 Royal Co-Management;
- 1884-1927 General Directorate of Exclusive Concessions.
Of undeniable importance to the general public were the exclusive concessions on salt and the monopoly on quinine, exercised on a non-profit basis for social medical objectives. The monopoly on tobacco, on the other hand, has always been tied to changing social customs and to "pleasure" consumption, consistently making a noteworthy contribution to the satisfaction of the State's economic needs.