Electronic Cigarettes are Molto Trendy in Italy

5 Apr
Available in four elegant colors, with battery charger

Available in four elegant colors, with battery charger

When trends hit around here, they tend to hit pretty hard. Lately I’ve been seeing electronic cigarettes, “sigarette elettroniche,” OVUNQUE, as in everywhere.

Frankly they look kind of ridiculous. People have them hanging around their necks on lanyards. They look like pens. It’s all rather silly, if you ask me. But I guess I shouldn’t mock them, right? I mean, we should be giving them a big slap on the back and being like “Go you! Woohoo for your health and the health of your loved ones!”

And yet, they still look really silly. Especially the big ol’ macho men, when they start puffing away on their pen-looking things. It’s just weird to me. Like an adult pacifier or something.

La Repubblica reported on March 3 that the e-cig stores are “popping up like mushrooms” all over Italy, with “1500 stores in Italy for a total business of 350 million euro.” There’s a video at that link that I can’t seem to embed here. They go on to say that it’s appealing to many people to open an e-cig store right now, because lots of firm rules don’t yet exist. I don’t know if that would be particularly appealing to me, it sounds kind of like a risky business proposition, not knowing exactly where you might be headed, legal-wise in the future. But then again, we’re talking about a culture where the idea of no rules and no one watching over you, can oftentimes be a quite appealing proposition.

In the video they interview a shop owner, who says it’s appealing because right now you don’t need any particular type of license (a.k.a. less bureaucracy for the moment, a huge boon here in Byzantine-like bureaucracy-laden Italy) and the investment is relatively minimal. He says with around €15,000 to €20,000, you can open a decent shop and make back your initial investment in “a few months.” He’s from up north, you can tell by his accent. In fact the top two locations right now are Torino and Milano. Not sure comparatively what that would look like in Rome, but if my informal observations are any indicator, we’re catching up to the north pretty quickly, neh!

[Interesting aside, on this note: Every single time I hosted an Italian friend back in the States, WITHOUT FAIL, the first thing they’d say when they saw the newspaper distribution boxes on sidewalks, was, “how is it possible that no one takes all the papers?” The first time someone asked me, I was baffled. “Why would anyone want to do that? I only need one.” The inevitable response, which I eventually got used to over the years, was, “But, just because you could! No one’s monitoring it!” Apparently the honor system isn’t big around Italy. So I’d then respond, “Ok, fine. But then what would you DO with all those extra newspapers?” Reply, “Oh, I don’t know, really. Sell them? Who knows. It’s just… this idea that you could take them all if you wanted.” I find that a fascinating cultural commentary. I have no use for 10 newspapers. My mind didn’t even go there. And yet, every Roman who ever came to the States always marveled at this idea. Love it.]

Thing is, people who don’t even smoke are getting all into the trend as well, which is slightly amusing and slightly disturbing. In fact the Ministry of Health is starting to regulate, having just blocked the sale of e-cigs to minors, so the minimum age now is 18 (apparently lots of younger teens were getting into the trend). There are all kinds of “myths” about the safety of the e-cig, which one blog in Italian debunks here. For example people will tell you “It’s just aromatic water.” Um, ok, but it’s nicotine-laced, for better or worse. Kind of cracks me up, this idea of recharging your cigarette, and how it blows “fake” smoke. Call me old-fashioned. And the poor Bic lighter people are going to be crushed.

Anyhoo, to each his own. But as all trends tend to do, the jury is still out and people are taking sides. The public business owner’s association of Padova is going one step further, as reported by Corriere del Veneto yesterday, having produced a sign and distributed it to all of its 1,500 business owner members, encouraging them to post the sign in their shops and restaurants. You see, people have no qualms about blowing their electronic “smoke” anywhere they like, indoors or out. Will an indoor ban on e-cigs be next? APPE certainly hopes so!

If you’ll excuse me now, I have to go because my cigarette needs to be plugged in. Then I’ll put the cap on it and hang it around my neck. Molto trendy!

"Electronic Smoke? No Thank You!"

“Electronic Smoke? No Thank You!”


14 Responses to “Electronic Cigarettes are Molto Trendy in Italy”

  1. Sara White April 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    The first time I saw someone with an electronic cigarette I was totally mystified… It looked like they were sucking on a pen that was magically producing smoke. Now I feel like cracking up with laughter every time I see one. It just seems… so ridiculous! I hope this trend is short-lived.

  2. Rick April 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    Italians will still surprise me at times. Years ago, I never thought that they’d obey the law of “no smoking” in public indoor places, and yet they adopted it fairly rapidly and without much fuss. However this trend seems silly to me. And I wonder if these cigs are “legal” to use inside of shops and restaurants?

  3. ragazza April 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    1. More proof that Italy is the land of trend-following, in everything from down jackets to vice.

    2. There is a definitely cultural difference regarding honesty between Americans and Italians, even over very small things. When I lived in Italy, I had to get used to checking my change, whether a discount had been applied correctly, etc. The onus is on you to make sure you are not getting scammed. I remember being proud of myself when I noticed I had been shortchanged a Euro at the movies, and I complained to the ticket person–in Italian! She immediately acknowledged her “mistake.” Whereas in the US, you tend to assume the other person is honest, for the most part. I found the Italian mentality about these things a bit depressing, but it’s a part of the history and culture of the region, I suppose.

  4. Catherine April 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Wow you are really informed. We have been having this argument in my house – about how ridiculous/beneficial this trend might be. I’m wondering if there are Audi models??

  5. D April 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Boh. I do find it funny that there’s been this huge BOOM in the business (shops have popped up all around Firenze, too). However, una mia amica was really helped by the electronic cigarette about 2 years ago (pre-trend, I suppose). So, I can’t really knock them or ridicule their existence. She was a pack a day smoker and using the electronic sig she is now smoke free.
    As for the free newspaper anecdote…I think it sums up the mentality as a whole perfectly…and sadly. When Italo Treno first came to be, and I was overjoyed by the competition, a student of mind scoffed “pffft, D, please. Those prices will never last. Soon Train Italia and Italo will make a deal to make all the prices higher and higher, you’ll see.” O.Kayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. I find this type of “there’s always a sinister motive behind everything” completely depressing.

  6. Un'americana a Roma April 5, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Sara, I’m so glad I’m not the only one. It really is weird and the people are so totally nonchalant about it, like, “no biggie, I’m cool” and no matter how often I see it I want to be like, no, you look silly though!

  7. Un'americana a Roma April 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    That’s the thing, the trend has happened so fast that the government hasn’t had time to catch up to it yet. They’ve enacted a study of the health consequences the results of which will presumably lead to legislation, but it’s a ways off still (I think I read that the first reports are due in 2014 sometime). The no-smoking ordinance goes back to 1975 in Italy in most public closed spaces (museums, hospitals, cinemas, schools) but when they extended it in 2005 to all public closed spaces, the onus was on the business owner to enforce it or be fined. That was what made the transition so smooth. Business owners couldn’t risk the potential fines and so they really were vigilant about telling their customers to put out their cigarettes. All my Italian friends said that’s the only reason why it worked.

  8. Un'americana a Roma April 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    I found the shortchanging quite common when I didn’t speak the language. It was a helpless feeling. I hate to generalize, but certainly in a very touristy city like Rome, it’s easy to take advantage and a euro here and a euro there can add up to a lot for a small business owner at the end of the day. That being said, when I was visiting NYC with three Italians, and we were all speaking Italian together, the hot dog vendor on the street tried to pull the same shit with us. So it’s maybe a universal “big city” and touristy thing.
    In any case, I have had several instances where, when called on it (now that I speak the language), they immediately admit the error but without taking direct responsibility for it. It’s always the same weird reaction. I guess in any big city you always have to kind of keep up your guard. Although, I will say, in Hong Kong I gave the subway ticket booth operator too many coins because I didn’t really get familiar with the coinage (was only there for 3 days) and he actually gave me back what I had given over the total. Coming from Rome that really made me smile. Hong Kong was one of the safest big cities I’ve ever visited, never felt threatened there in any way.

  9. Un'americana a Roma April 5, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Ha! Did you watch that video? There were so many different (ridic) models in that video. Crystal-encrusted, tricolore with “Italy” in cursive. Wow. There certainly must be Roma and Lazio team ones!?!

  10. Un'americana a Roma April 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Yeah it’s depressing but of course it has its deeply rooted cultural origins. At least in Rome, it’s super dog-eat-dog and so since you kind of grow up knowing you’re going to get screwed, you feel like you’re entitled to screw others when the opportunity presents itself. I’m always amazed at the astonished looks I get when I launch some kind of idea that would be totally run of the mill in the US, and here I get “oh, yeah, that’s cute. That would never work here.” Sometimes I try things just out of curiosity. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. The advantage of being a foreigner I guess is that I don’t have any deep-seated preconceived notions about what’s possible. Although I will say that after 12 years I have resigned myself to the fact that my first trip to a public office is always just to find out what’s missing or wrong. That’s saved me a lot of frustration, never expecting to get anything done on the first trip. “Cultural adaptation” 😉

  11. Rick April 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Well, that explains a lot–I didn’t realize that the onus was on the business owner. Thanks for clearing that up for me! As far as the smokeless cigs, yes, anything that artificial can’t be good for the user. But at least there aren’t any second hand risks. Or so it seems.

  12. D April 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    ehehhehe, that’s a good point about the public office. 😉 Anyway, I just wish the cultural origins were not as skeptical and cynical as they are. I have to say, I find it happens a LOT more with students/friends from Roma+++ giu than anyone I know from Bologna and above. I don’t really get upset anymore since I know it’s something I can never change, even if I try to offer ideas or different ways of thinking from time to time. 🙂

  13. Cathern July 27, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Hi just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you
    know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why
    but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.


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