I just returned from a wonderful trip to Europe. Well, it was almost wonderful. Put it this way, it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, but I am probably never going back.
I'm guessing that Maui Weekly readers are divided into three separate groups--those who smoke cigarettes and don't mind others who smoke, those who don't smoke and hate all smoke from smokers and the third group are those who don't mind the smoke that much, whether they smoke or don't smoke. I am in the second group.
Italy was sublime--the ocean, the food, the music, the ruins, the ambience, the people, the customs, the animated way they have of talking, the architecture, the old buildings, the churches, etc.
But here's the rub: Nine out of every 10 Italians smoke cigarettes as part of their everyday ritual. When RJ Reynolds and the rest of those corporate thugs saw they weren't going to make much progress here in America, they immediately shifted the focus of their addictive nicotine butts across the oceans to Europe and Asia.
I swear, in Sicily they must start their kids smoking da kine at 8 years old!
The laws over most of Europe ban smoking indoors, but of course, when you go to Italy in the fall, you go there to sit outside, to have wine outside, to enjoy the music and the people outside--and most of all--to enjoy their incredible food while you are outside. But there is no way you can lift a forkful of that delicious Italian cuisine to your mouth without getting blasted by the smoke from everyone around you as you sit at a restaurant outside in this beautiful Mediterranean country.
I am an American living in Hawai'i. I certainly have a right to try to change the laws regarding my health and the air I breathe in the area where I live and spend every day.
But Italy belongs to the Italians--not to some American tourist who wants to gripe about their smoking culture.
Italy is my ancestral homeland. I love the people. I love the scenery. I love the history. I love the attitude. I love the food. But I do not love the incredible amount of personally produced air pollution that is part of everyday life there.
Life is too short and my eyes and throat signal to me that I must make a choice. Therefore, sadly, I choose to miss out on the wonders of Italy and other lands where smoking is part of the culture in order to live a little longer.
Although I will always cherish my (mostly) fond memories of the trip, I must say, "addio, Italia."
This opinion column is written by Charles Laquidara, who has lived on Maui since August 2000. He worked at WBCN radio in Boston for 30 years as the morning-drive host of a show called "The Big Mattress" and is occasionally heard on Mana'o Radio here on-island. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to his daily ramblings on Facebook.