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!