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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January, 2005, 15:16 GMT
Ban stubs out Italy tobacco sales
Teenagers smoking in Italy
For many Italian smokers, heading outside is now the only option
A ban on public smoking, introduced less than two weeks ago, is already starting to have a dramatic effect on Italian cigarette sales.

Sales fell 23% since a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places, such as bars, restaurants and offices, came into force on 10 January.

Trade groups have threatened to fight the ban in the courts.

About a quarter of all Italians smoke and 90,000 people are estimated to die from related diseases every year.

Last gasp?

While the dip in demand may cheer the health conscious, it is fraying the nerves of Italy's tobacconists.

This data is very worrying for tobacco vendors
Maurizio Bruni of the Assotabaccai-Confesercenti

"This data is very worrying for tobacco vendors," said Maurizio Bruni, chairman of the Assotabaccai-Confesercenti, the tobacconists' association which published Friday's figures.

"Although they understand the spirit of the law and the need to teach citizens about their health, vendors are seeing their profits fall drastically."

Mr Bruni said that the tobacconists want tax breaks and the opportunity to sell more products and offer more services.

Heart of the matter

Part of the problem is that tobacconists occupy a special place in Italy's retail chain.

The main outlet for cigarettes and tobacco products, they are usually small, busy places that are heavily regulated and taxed.

Up until now, business has been brisk, fuelled by the Italian view that life - be it football, coffee or riding a scooter - is usually better with a cigarette.

Times seem to be changing, however, and Italy's anti-smoking laws are some of the toughest in Europe.

Businesses face a fine of up to 2,000 euros (1,390) if they allow customers to smoke, while the smokers themselves could be slapped with a 275-euro fine for repeat offences.


SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Passive smoking
25 Nov 03 |  Medical notes


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