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Last Updated: Monday, 10 January, 2005, 23:12 GMT
Italians fume over cigarette curb
A member of the Italian consumers rights association member is dressed as
The ban is dividing Italian society
An official ban on smoking in all enclosed public places - including bars, restaurants, and offices - has come into force in Italy.

But espresso and cigarettes at the local coffee bar is a daily ritual for many and there is resistance from smokers and some bar owners.

Businesses face a fine of up to 2,000 euros (£1,395) if they fail to ensure their customers do not smoke.

Some, however, are threatening not to report offenders who light up.

The smokers themselves could be slapped with a 275-euro (£191) fine for repeat offenders.

The first smoker to be fined was caught in Naples a few minutes after midnight when the ban came into force. He paid a modest 27.50 euros, but the fine can double if a smoker lights up in front of children or pregnant women.

The new law allows smoking only in special sealed off rooms with smoke extractors, but only a few establishments are bothering to create dedicated smoking rooms.

Owners say it is too expensive to install the automatic doors and forced ventilation required by the law.

Implementation was delayed a few days to avoid affecting the New Year celebrations.

The ban follows similar moves in Ireland and Norway last year, where smoking is now prohibited in public places.


Two small - but significant - changes have taken place inside restaurants and bars - most ashtrays have disappeared, and no smoking signs are being prominently displayed for the first time, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

"This is a real witch-hunt, where the witch isn't the cigarette but the restaurateur," Edi Sommariva, head of a trade body which represents 240,000 bars, restaurants and clubs across the country, told Reuters news agency.

I've been smoking since age 18. It's my sacred right
Antonio Martino
Italian defence minister

Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia - himself a doctor - says the new law is to protect against the dangers of passive smoking.

He said smoking was the number-one cause of preventable, premature death in Italy.

"Most of the population is tired of being poisoned by smoke in the air where they work or where they play... most Italians, three quarters of them, are with us," he said.

The health ministry has launched a campaign - particularly aimed at women - to encourage the population to kick the habit.

"Smoking is not sexy" reads one poster and another tells them not to burn their beauty by smoking.

'Sacred right'

Estimates of the total number of smokers in Italy vary between 14 and 16 million people out of a total population of 58 million.

From Monday, smoking will be restricted to private homes and open spaces. Public places will be obliged to have special ventilation systems to ensure their air is smoke-free.

But even in government it seems that not everyone is delighted by the measure which was voted into law in 2002.

"I've been smoking since age 18. It's my sacred right," Defence Minister Antonio Martino told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The Italian trade association FIP says only 5% of bar and restaurant owners have introduced special rooms for smokers.

Rome's La Repubblica newspaper said the ban was now in place "in a climate of pedantic rows, battles of principle, farewell parties and legal disputes, and amid continuing protests and confusion".

Do you welcome the ban on smoking in public places or will you be defying the ban? Read some of your views below:

I don't support smoking bans and I fully give my support to those who defy them. It is the right of the individual and business owners to decide whether or not to smoke or to allow smoking in their place, not that of the government. If the government is so worried about the effects of smoke inhalation, then ban motorised transport, fireplaces, and everything else that spews forth smoke into the environment. There's a lot worse chemicals in what comes out of industrial smokestacks than in what comes out of a cigarette.
N. Jakobsen, Solrød Strand, Denmark

The ban on smoking is a great way to give up the habit
Simon, Ireland

The ban on smoking is a great way to give up the habit. I was smoking for 13 years prior to Ireland introducing their ban. I admit that I was very much against the ban before it was introduced. However, I soon got tired of having to nip outside for a cigarette. Two weeks after the ban, I got patches. Now nine months later I haven't had another cigarette. I feel great, and I don't have to stand out in the rain!
Simon, Ireland

I agree with a ban on smoking in places where at any time a number of non-smokers have to be in order to go on about their daily lives, such as buses, government offices and such. But the idea of banning smoking in bars and/or restaurants, where people visit not out of necessity but out of leisure, is nothing more than a pathetic attempt at having a "modern" public image. Any logical human being has the ability to choose not to be in an environment that is harmful to his/her health IF he/she desires to do so.
Tahsin Ersen, Lawrence, KS USA

A similar ban on smoking has been in place in Florida for many years now. As an ex-smoker I agree with all the comments the supporters of the ban have made and continue to marvel at the callousness and arrogance of some of the comments from the smokers.

One of the side effects of the ban has been a general reluctance to hire people who are obvious smokers. Since they can no longer smoke at their desks (poisoning everyone else in the building), they are forced to smoke outside - away from their offices. This causes smokers to spend a lot of time away from their duties and has made them less attractive as employees - not to mention that they smell awful - but it has prompted many to give the habit up or risk not getting a job.
Hugh Brown, Florida, USA

This is great news for smokers (an incentive to stop smoking), non-smokers (right to a smoke-free environment), taxpayers (a lower bill for curing tobacco-related diseases) and fellow Europeans (Italy being the first nation from mainland Europe to introduce the ban and setting an example for other countries with ingrained smoking cultures to follow).
Ric, Rome, Italy

My compliments and congratulations go to Italy, a country seen not too long ago as the "harbour" of hopeless heavy smokers now has taken that courageous step forward! Wonders do happen.
Ernst Sommer, Zurich, Switzerland

This ban is one of those things that makes me feel proud of being Italian. I know that in Europe the Irish were first and then came the Norwegians. But still we were ahead of many other European countries. Today's ban is a preview of what will soon or later happen all over the world. Then, most of us will remember how barbaric we were when smoking was allowed on buses, trains, restaurants and discos etc. I firmly believe that the ban is already helping in saving lives, in getting rid of very painful illnesses and in eliminating the peer pressure involved with smoking.
Giorgio, Rome, Italy

Freedom of choice my friends. If people don't like places that let others smoke, go somewhere else. We see cities and towns where pollution from industry and cars is much worse than the smoke from smokers' cigarettes, yet I don't hear any of you complaining about that or wanting to ban all cars from the road. How about we ban alcohol at bars because people get drunk, drive home and kill other innocent road users? People make choices in life, and if some people want to smoke, then that's their problem.
Ara Garabedian, Melbourne, Australia

I do appreciate the fact that non smokers should not get penalized for our smoking habits, but having said that dont we smokers have any right? The law gives us the right to buy it but does restrict us to use it. You have the governments making money from the cigarette companies hence they are not interested in any form of ban of cigarettes, like they have banned drugs. I do think every government has a hypocritical attitude towards smokers.
Kutu Chatterji, Dubai UAE

How the law will be enforced by the Italian authorities is another matter
Peter, Treviso, Italy
It's great that this law has come into force, and I think most of the Italian public will agree with it. How the law will be enforced by the Italian authorities is another matter.
Peter, Treviso, Italy

I agree there should be a ban on smoking by consent. However I also believe that people should be given the choice. By enforcing a smoking ban government is dictating to the people rather than serving them. The commercial environment is such that everyone can make choices including pub landlords, restaurant owners etc. I will not give my custom to a restaurant where smoking is allowed. Business should have the opportunity to decide what their customers want and those premises should be "signed and advertised " accordingly.
Wes, Stirling, Scotland

About time! I am married to an Italian and have always been disturbed by the level of cigarette smoking - combined with poor ventilation - in Italian restaurants. Such great food, yet it all tastes of ash. This winter's trip was particularly disturbing as I am pregnant. Hard enough not to throw up from the smell, but frightening the harm it could do to our baby. Exercise your choice outside or in your own home. It's not a 'choice' for the 'passive smoker.'
Rachael, Iceland

It's about time! Europe is so far behind the rest of the world. I was just recently in Switzerland and Italy, and it was impossible to avoid cigarette smoke! Europeans think that only Americans care about a smoke-free environment, but even third-world countries across Asia do not allow smoking in public places.
Paul Terrile, Singapore

I fully endorse this ban. I am fed up of having to sit in smoke filled banks, shops and bars each time I visit Italy. One bank last summer had a no smoking sign but the bank clerk was smoking as he served the customers.
Giuseppe Cumbo, London, UK

These bans are far to draconian, why do they have to go headlong into total bans, if proper ventilation/extractor systems were used there would not be such an issue. I agree that people should not have to put up with second hand smoke if they themselves do not smoke, but removing people's right to choose is most definitely not the answer. Businesses should be able to decide for themselves whether they are smoking or non-smoking and not be dictated to be by an over-zealous nanny state.
Ashley Stocks, Lytham St.Annes Lancs England

It's the most intelligent move the Berlusconi government was able to produce to date. It was about time the non-smoking majority had its right to smoke-free environments. Unfortunately, I am afraid that this ban will be observed by Italians as much as the speed limits are. That is, totally ignored. I used to smoke, and only now, years after stopping do I realise the harm that I was doing to non-smoking people. Unfortunately, in some cities, like Milan or Rome, air pollution is more of a killer than cigarette smoke. Are we likely to see a city car ban soon?
O, Brighton, UK/Treviso, Italy

The province of New Brunswick, Canada had a public smoking ban which was recently extended to include bars and restaurants. It had a few bar owners who objected but nothing has been heard from them of late. The only thing is you get the smokers huddling around the entrances to buildings smoking in groups and leaving butts everywhere. It is a nice thing to be able to go for dinner and eat without smoke wafting over you.
Neil Mitchell, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

I am originally from California where there is a smoking ban also in effect and I didn't realize, as a non smoker, how nice it was to be able to eat or socialize in a bar or restaurant without coming home with your hair, skin and clothes wreaking of cigarette smoke. Prague is a smokers' paradise and since moving here four years ago, I know that I have definitely lost years off of my life living in this city of smoke filled bars and restaurants. I think it will be a fight to the death for Czechs to give up their smoking in bars.
John Salerno, Prague, Czech Republic

If we are serious about protecting the vulnerable and those who have no choice, then we should ban smoking in private houses where there children. Smoking in public houses and restaurants where people have the choice to visit or not should be at the discretion of the business. I am an ex-smoker who believes that people should have a choice.
David, Bedford, UK

I am just back from a trip home to Ireland over the New Year, my first since the implementation of their smoking ban. Being able to spend wet and windy afternoons with my girlfriend and our 4 month old daughter in front of the fire at the smoke-free local country pub was a fantastic experience. Everybody I spoke to was positive on the ban smokers and non-smokers alike.
James, Cologne, Germany

I agree 100% with the new ban on smoking in public places. Last week I was invited to a restaurant with a group of friends, when after dinner the majority of the group started smoking. It was so bad that I had to get up from the table and go outside until they had finished smoking. Now hopefully things will change and the smokers will have to go outside if they want to light up. If not I will be the first to report anyone who does not respect this new law.
Anthony Cole, Rome, Italy

Everybody moans about how smokers pollute their lungs and the risk to their health. How many mothers do you see pushing their children in pushchairs right next to traffic spewing out far more pollution than cigarette smoke. Not one of them has protected their child from this pollution yet they complain about their own health next to a smoker. Get your priorities right. (I am a non smoker)
Pete Watkin, Milton Keynes, England

It's about time the UK Government stopped pussy-footing around the issue and banned smoking in all enclosed public spaces in this country. No person should have the right to inflict inconvenience and harm on another. The right of a vast majority of people to breathe clean air is more important that the right of a minority to smoke in public places.
Dale Chisholm, Leigh-on-Sea, England

I totally agree with the new non-smoking act. I personally think that smoking is not a habit of which someone could reasonably feel proud. I do believe however that people should be allowed to do with their lives what they think is worthy. But the right to go out to a restaurant, pub, or disco and breathe in air which is not polluted with smoke goes first. Moreover, non-smokers have the right to go out without having to spend the rest of the day/evening with that terrible smell that cigarette smoke leaves in clothes and hair.
Alberto Galuppo, Milan, Italy

It is a totally unfair and unacceptable law.I will keep on smoking. My personal right of smoking has nothing to do with false arguments such as public health or non smokers' rights.
Stefano, Milan, Italy

I welcome the ban on smoking in public places as it is long overdue. Passive smoking is so destructive, and ugly, and it kills! Can't wait for it to come into force here in Hong Kong in the near future.
Henry Moorehead, Hong Kong

As a pregnant non-smoker, I definitely welcome the ban! If people wish to smoke, they can still do so out of doors or in their own homes. They should not inflict their smoke on non-smokers or on children, especially since we are all aware of how hazardous smoking is.
Alice, Modena, Italy

I welcome the ban, as do many smokers who believe they stand a good chance of quitting if they are forced into it
Philip Pike, Colchester
I welcome the ban, as do many smokers who believe they stand a good chance of quitting if they are forced into it. The Italian uproar doesn't surprise me. There are no physical or mental benefits at all from this disgusting habit - it's an addiction, not a method of relaxation. The EU should exercise its power and implement an EU-wide cigarette ban. It's high time the health-conscious non-smoker was given a bit of respect.
Philip Pike, Colchester

I have just come back from a week in Ireland, my first visit since the smoking ban has come into force. Being a non-smoker, I absolutely loved the smoke free environment in pubs and restaurants. Going out for a drink or a meal and not coming out with clothes and hair smelling of cigarette smoke made a big difference. I wish Germany, where non-smoking areas in restaurants/pubs are almost non-heard of, would start introducing similar measures.
Anja MacFadden, Frankfurt, Germany

I have to admire Ireland how they made a stand and banned smoking - it is good to see Italy follow suit. If only those who smoked realised what they are doing to their bodies they would not be so ignorant to protest. I take it we can leave Britain out of this as it is to PC to ban something that costs the NHS millions each year.
Helen Connolly, UK

For so long smokers have enjoyed the right to pollute other peoples' lungs to their severe harm and risk to life. Now it's the turn of the rights of the majority to take precedence - namely the right to not have this particular inconsideration inflicted on them. Smokers' right to smoke is not denied, only their 'right' to harm others by it. Seems pretty straightforward to me.
Paul, Aberdeen

I fully agree with the ban. We non-smokers have an absolute right not to have to put up with cigarette smoke (or any other), and the idea of being "tolerant" of smokers is quite ludicrous. May Switzerland soon follow suit and implement this very just ban.
Martin Cameron, Switzerland

I don't smoke, never have, but I feel that banning smoking in bars and restaurants is against the owners' rights to free trade. If a customer doesn't wish to be around smoke, then go restaurants that don't allow it. It's called freedom to chose and where to spend your money.
Joshua Haught, Phoenix, Arizona USA

As I am planning to take a skiing holiday in two weeks time I am delighted with this timely ban.I look forward to being able to enjoy a meal and drink in a safety and comfort. I enjoy the minimal risks of a black run but not smoke.
Dr Rod Hudson, Banbury, UK

I welcome the ban. I've never smoked and I was in a permanent struggle with the arrogance of smokers.
Claudio Genero, Udine Italy

Smoking should be banned in closed places, except perhaps in specially monitored sections where the ventilation system ensures that the air remains 100% smoke-free for any near-by non-smoking section. As much as the smokers have a right to choose to do so, so do the non-smokers have a right not to suffer from passive smoking.
Nikos Loutas, Athens Greece

I live in New York State U.S. and we have had a smoking ban for a while similar to that which is now is place in Italy. Initially the views were very similar to those expressed in Italy; however, restaurants and bars are seeing an increase in customers because their food taste better, theirs clothes don't smell of oily cigarette tar. I personally don't smoke, but have never complained about others who do, but it sure makes going to a good restaurant more enjoyable.
Frederick V. Perrin, Winthrop NY USA

I support the ban on smoking in public places. It makes me sad to see so many young people smoking when they have knowledge of the destruction it causes. With smoking in public places banned there would be less peer pressure among young people to take up the habit.
Paula Willenbrock, Chanteix, France

Ban sees cigarette sales slump
26 Nov 04 |  Northern Ireland
Should smoking be banned?
28 May 04 |  Africa
Q&A: Passive smoking
25 Nov 03 |  Medical notes


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