“Vietato fumare – and this means YOU!”

April 18, 2009

vietato_fumareCorriere della Sera is reporting today on a bill in the Italian legislature that would, among other things, require cigarette manufacturers to insert in each pack a leaflet identifying specific substances, including metals, that are present in the products and that may cause cancer. The bill also would ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone under 18, require retailers to ask customers for IDs, and prohibit smoking in schools, including secondary schools. Smoking in schools is already illegal, but the law in that regard is widely ignored – something those familiar with Italian society won’t find surprising.

This bill is part of an ongoing government campaign against smoking in Italy, about 32.6 percent of men and 20.7 of women between the ages of 15 and 24 are smokers. The newspaper reported that the average starting age of smokers is 13, but seven out of ten smokers start when they are 12.

94px-italian_pack I can’t help thinking of a man whose last name was Romeo (pronounced ro-MAY-oh) who used to frequent my grandfather’s grocery store. Mr. Romeo was blind and made his way around town with a cane. We used to keep a stock of these little Italian cigars that only he would buy. But I don’t know where else he would have bought them, given his circumstances, and I don’t think he would have had much reason to live if he couldn’t smoke them. Heaven only knows what he was inhaling, but we wouldn’t have recognized him without one of those little stogies in his mouth. They stunk like hell, but they gave him a certain panache.

This story also reminds me of Nicola Mariano, our back-to-back neighbor, a man who had only one arm. He used to smoke De Nobili tobacco in his pipe. We had a similar relationship with Nick in that we stocked that tobacco just for him. Most people in their right minds wouldn’t have smoked that stuff even in those  days before smokers were officially designated as lepers. But Nick wouldn’t have been Nick if he didn’t wile way a summer  afternoon sitting on the bread box in front of our store, with that reeking pipe between his teeth, making wisecracks at our customers as they came and went.

My paternal grandfather wasn’t a smoker – at least, not while I knew him. One of the things he left behind was his army handbook. That would be the army of King Emanuel II, in which Grandpa served between 1906 and 1909. One piece of advice that the handbook offered the dashing young soldiers was that “lo smoderato fumare danneggia la salute” – intemperate smoking damages (one’s) health. By now we know that even moderate smoking can be lethal to the smoker and possibly those around him, but we would have had a hard time convincing Mr. Romeo and Nick, both of whom died in their 90s, and enjoyed themselves whilst they waited.

4 Responses to ““Vietato fumare – and this means YOU!””

  1. bart Says:

    They’ll have a hard time enforcing the no sales to people under 18 rule in Rome. Whenever I’ve been there almost everyone buys their cigarettes from vending machines that are outside on the street.

    Also, I’m not sure when governments are going to understand that warnings do no good whatsoever. Every smoker knows it’s bad for us – but it’s a choice we’ve made.

    In France they have big warnings on the front of the packages of cigareets saying stuff like “Smoking Kills” and “Smoking May Hurt The Health Of You And Your Friends.”

    So, now the more enterprising Tabacs are selling inserts that you can put under the foil to cover the warnings. They look just like the warnings but instead read stuff like “Smoking Makes You Cool” and “Smoking Will Help You And Your Friends Get Laid” and my favorite – “Share My Oral Fixation.”

    These things (they cost about 10 cents each) are insanely popular. If they started putting warnings in the packs people would just create joke versions of them as well.

    Heck, you could create a brand of cigarettes called “Coffin Nails” and have a picture of a dead person on the package and there is a certain section of the population that would want to smoke more just because of it.

  2. bart Says:

    Also, the current Italian government is insane. They recently tried to ban their equivalent of the New Brunswick “Grease Trucks.”

    They passed the law but the mayor of Rome then issued an executive order telling his police officers not to enforce the law – so the trucks are still there.

  3. charlespaolino Says:

    One provision of the bill is to install ID-reading technology on the vending machines, which obviously is less complicated than leaving people alone.

  4. bart Says:

    So, that would mean that only Italian citizens with identity cards would be able to buy cigarettes from vending machines.

    That would suck for all the tourists and immigrant workers who like to smoke.

    Because I doubt the technology would be good enough to say, read every type of passport and identity card in the world.

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