Italy’s Smoking Wars

On January 10th, a much-delayed law banning smoking in public places goes into effect in Italy. It requires public spaces (restaurants, clubs, discos, offices, bingo parlors…) to either wall off smokers in separate rooms, or to ensure adequate ventilation (a high volume of air exchange with a filtration system), or to forbid smoking altogether. Individuals caught breaking the ban would be fined, and restaurant etc. owners are expected to “play sheriff,” risking fines from 220 to 2200 euros if they do not.

The January 10th date already represents a compromise to allow owners to get through the holiday season (which ends with the Epiphany on January 6th), but many are gearing up to do battle against various aspects of the law, especially that requiring them to rat on their clients.

Some observers assume that this law, like so many others, will be routinely flouted in Italy. From what I’ve seen so far, I think that will depend on the attitude of individual owners. Those who are militant smokers themselves and/or cherish their smoking clientele will get away with as much as they can, while others, as I have observed before, have already banned smoking from their premises, and seem happy to have done so. They may already be discovering that, while they may lose a few clients among the fumatori accaniti (dedicated smokers), they make at least compensating gains among the non-smokers.

Smokers feel besieged the world over, as evidenced by the howls of outrage every time another country or city banishes them to the sidewalks. Having been a besieged non-smoker all my life, I feel no sympathy. For some of us - sinus and bronchitis sufferers like myself or, worse, asthmatics – any amount of smoke is a threat to health and even life. We have been effectively banned from many places and events by smoke. I greatly enjoyed an evening country dancing country-western with my DC roommate at a local club years ago, but had to leave because I was choking.

I likewise enjoyed the music and ambience at one of Milan’s jazz clubs, but have never returned since my first smoky night there years ago. Maybe now I can.

So, smokers, don’t begrudge us smoke-sufferers the opportunity to join in the fun. You always have the choice to step outside for a smoke; stepping outside to breathe isn’t much of an option for us.

Further discussion

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