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Smokers In Italy Face Steep New Fines


In Italy, if you smoke and then flick that cigarette butt on the street, you now risk a $300 fine. New laws take effect this week aimed at curbing Italy's love of smoking. But then, Italians have been known not to strictly obey laws they find inconvenient. So to check on how enforcement of this one is going, we called Salvatore Barberi in Rome. He is a native Roman and tour guide there. And Salvatore, buongiorno.

SALVATORE BARBERI: Buongiorno. How are you?

KELLY: I am well. I have start by confessing that what I am is extremely jealous because you are walking through the Piazza Navona, which is one of the loveliest piazzas in Rome. Tell us what you can see.

BARBERI: Well, you know, I can see a few people around. Now we have all these nodding people drinking an espresso because they need to wake up. And probably also, you know, smoking cigarettes, some of them.

KELLY: And can you tell, as they're finishing their cigarettes, what they're doing? Are they flicking them onto the street?

BARBERI: That's the problem. You know, there will be some polite, and they will carry these sort of portable containers and they will put it in there. But most of them, they're going to throw it in the streets. And probably they have been always been doing that, and they keep they will keep on doing that until we catch them and they will need the first fine. And maybe - maybe they will think two or three times before doing again.

KELLY: You say maybe - maybe they'll get fined. So I have to ask, have you actually seen any policeman out stopping people and issuing tickets for this?

BARBERI: No. Not yet. Not yet because, you know, I think that people don't take these problems as initial, you know? I mean, I used to be a smoker and I can tell you that I was smoking, but not on the street. I think that this is another of the problems because, you know, sometimes you go around, you see these sort of macho men with a cigar in their mouth.

KELLY: Salvatore, when you - you spend a lot of time walking through the streets of Rome as a tour guide, leading people around. Are cigarette butts a big problem on the streets?

BARBERI: Recently, since things have been changing in town because, you know, we have a new mayor - since then, they're much better. Right now, I'm just walking in the middle of the Piazza Navona, and I have to say that I'm looking around and I don't see many cigarettes on the ground. Now I don't know if probably someone told them that we were talking this morning and they might have been coming and cleaning.

KELLY: (Laughter).

BARBERI: But I'm counting them now, and I see probably 5, 6 cigarettes.

KELLY: Not too bad for a big piazza.


KELLY: Well, last thing, Salvatore. I mentioned at the beginning that Italians are known for finding ways to get around laws that they don't find convenient. Do you think that will be true in this case?

BARBERI: Well, let's say this. Even these things are changing, but you are perfectly right. I mean, the Italians don't like to follow too many rules. Then I also have to say that I've seen a lot of the foreigners that are throwing plastic bottles into spots that they use not to throw them away. So I think that it's part of the human nature, you know? Sometimes you have rules, and you want to break it.

KELLY: Well, thank you so much, Salvatore.

BARBERI: Prego, prego. My pleasure.

KELLY: That's Roman tour guide Salvatore Barberi updating us on how Italy's new antismoking laws are taking hold or not. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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