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NAPLES, Italy — If anything, life since Italy’s ban on indoor smoking has gotten better for Chief Petty Officer — and smoker — Joe Campbell.

He likes walking into restaurants in Naples, where the aromas of pizzas and pasta waft versus the stale stench of tobacco.

But what he appreciates most is that his wife and two children aren’t subjected to the vice of others, including himself, said Campbell, a Seabee stationed at Naval Support Activity Naples.

On Jan. 10, the Italian government imposed one of Europe’s toughest smoking bans and prohibited folks from lighting up in all indoor public places that do not have designated smoking areas with their own ventilation systems.

The change felt around Italy was not considered drastic on American bases throughout the country, which have banned smoking inside public buildings for years.

Smokers face fines from $36 to $363 if caught smoking in banned areas, which pre-ban included pubs, restaurants, trains, movie theaters, grocery stores, offices, and even hospital corridors and stairwells, to name a few.

Owners or managers who fail to stop to it or to call police face a maximum fine of $2,904.

In the first two weeks after the ban, Alfonso Trincone, owner of Madigan’s Irish Pub in Pozzuoli, a popular Naples hangout for Americans and British living in the area, said he saw a decrease of 90 percent of his clientele.

“I was seriously damaged,” he said. On a good night, he rakes between 1,500 euros and 2,000 euros.

Tallies for the first few weekends, his most popular nights, topped a mere 150 euros, he said.

“I was nearly ruined.”

Slowly, and thankfully he said, customers are returning.

“They just know to go outside to smoke. And I think that’s OK with them,” Trincone said.

Vic Bonaventura, owner of Vic’s Bar and Grill in Gaeta said he invested “quite a lot of money” (though wouldn’t say how much) for outdoor heaters to accommodate his patrons.

“People just go outside and are smoking underneath the heaters. It didn’t hurt my business,” he said of the ban.

Chief Petty Officer David Duerksen, a nonsmoker for four weeks, said he disagrees with the ban in pub establishments that serve alcohol, saying people who frequent bars do so knowing smokers frequent such establishments.

Two civilian employees at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza said they noticed a change almost immediately after the mid-January ban.

“I was in the mall and about to light up when I realized that no one else was smoking,” said Greg Thacher. “So I didn’t light up.”

“I was there on Sunday, the last day before it kicked off and there was just a cloud [of smoke] in there,” said Carl Smith, a nonsmoker.

Thacher said he doesn’t much mind going out in the cold to light up.

“It doesn’t bother me. I was in the States just six months ago, so I’m used to it.”

Airman 1st Class Marion Scott, a nonsmoker stationed at Aviano Air Base, said going to a club or out to eat now is a nicer experience.

“I like it,” he said of the ban. “It’s a lot better. I hate going outside and smelling like cigarette smoke.”

Airman 1st Class Thomas Wakeman is a smoker, but he says that being in public inside now is nicer as well. “The air is different. It’s fresher.”

He said it’s chilly in northern Italy, though.

“Right now, it’s cold outside so [smoking] is kind of a pain.”

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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