Ban Damage: Italy Sales Down 23%

Italy Italy’s Cigarette Sales Fall 23% After Smoking Ban, Group Says

January 20, 2005

Sales of cigarettes in Italy have plunged 23 percent since the introduction on Jan. 10 of a law banning smoking in bars and other public places, the tobacco vendors trade association Assotabaccai said today.

If the preliminary data is confirmed in a final report at the end of the month, the government may face protest from retailers over the measure, the association said in an e-mailed statement.

“Such a big drop arouses great concerns among us,” said Maurizio Bruni, the president of the association in an interview. “The economic impact of the decline in sales will be felt not only by vendors but also by the state through lower tax revenue.”

The law has spurred protests from smokers, who said it infringes on civil liberties, and from the staff of restaurants and other businesses who have to enforce the ban. Those who fail to do so are subject to fines of as much as 2,200 euros ($2,849).

About 24 percent of Italians above the age of 14 are smokers, the Health Ministry’s Web site said, citing figures from the national statistics office from 2003.

A tax increase of 20 euro cents on each pack of cigarettes took effect in December, boosting the country’s inflation rate to 2 percent from a five-year low of 1.9 percent the previous month.

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Thief in Italy snags Rolex thanks to smoking ban

February 1, 2005

It seems hard to believe, but Italians are taking the new no-smoking law seriously — so seriously that a jeweler is out a watch valued at 29,000 euro ($37,000).

A man strolled into a store in Milan’s famous shopping street, Via Montenapoleone, and asked to see a few Rolexes. As he perused the glittering merchandise, he told the shop owner he only had foreign currency, but he was definitely interested.

Then, according to La Repubblica newspaper, he reached for his lighter. If it was a calculated hit, it was an exercise in minimalism.

The shop owner, conscious of the Jan. 10 smoking ban in public places, invited him to go out of the shop.”Please, enjoy your cigarette outside,” the newspaper reported the 53-year-old owner saying.

It was a bad call: the jeweler, at worst, could have been fined a maximum of 2,000 euro. That is, if the five police officers in Milan assigned to the anti-cigarette patrol had happened by the shop at lunchtime. The owner preferred not to take his chances with the fine and as he phoned the bank to ask about the foreign currency, the would-be customer went outside to have his smoke — making a clean get away with the precious watch.

The new law has been seen as a major victory for the 70% of non-smoking Italians. It made for a very expensive mistake for the merchant.

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