How do I buy cigarettes in Rome?

Buying cigarettes in Rome is relatively easy, as long as you are aware of certain restrictions. We show you how.

Important note on pricing

Cigarettes in Italy are a regulated market, which means the price of cigarettes is always just over €5 a packet for most international brands (or €6 for rarer ones), and there are never any discounts available – even for bulk purchase.

Where do I buy cigarettes in Rome?

Due to strict licencing laws, cigarettes may only be purchased at a licensed tobacconist, known as a tabaccaio (ta-ba-KAI-oh) or tabaccheria (ta-ba-keh-REE-ah).

Not gas stations, not supermarkets, drug stores, bars, cafés or convenience stores: only tabaccai. (Some cafés, bars, and service stations on freeways do have a tobacco licence, however, they’re the exception not the rule.)

Tabaccaio in Rome - the place to by cigarettes and transport ticketsGenerally there is only one tabaccaio per city block, per government licencing. You can spot these by looking for a blue sign bearing a white T (pictured).

Fun fact: older signs say “sali e tabacchi” – “salts and tobaccos”. This is because in the past, salt, like tobacco, was a government monopoly, and could only be sold with a licence. In fact there’s at least one tabaccaio in Rome which still sells boxes of salt (it’s the one at Piazzale di Ponte Milvio if you’re interested in visiting).

Tabaccherie carry most major international brands such as Marlboro, Benson & Hedges, Philip Morris, etc. They also carry packs of rolling tobacco. It’s nearly impossible to find menthol cigarettes in Italy, though.

You can buy cigarettes cartons of 10 packs of cigarettes in most tabaccai but because cigarette prices are government controlled, there is never any discount available.

Half-size packs of ten cigarettes are also available in many tabaccai. Just ask for “una scattola di dieci [your brand]” (OON-a SCAT-oh-la dee dee-EH-chi [your brand]).

Tabaccai are also licensed to perform some of the duties that would normally be done in a post office, like selling basic postage stamps (francobolli), and allowing people to pay utility bills, parking fines etc.

These stores also sell transport tickets. If you are having problems with the machines in the Metro station, just find your nearest tabaccheria and you will be able to buy tickets from an actual human who can give you some change.

How much are cigarettes in Rome? 

Cigarette prices in Rome (2022)

In Italy, the prices of most cigarette brands and varieties are between €4.50 and €5.70 (for a 20-pack). International brands cost €5.20 per packet. Brands that are more obscure, such as Dunhill, are around €6.

What brands of cigarette are available in Rome?

Popular brands that are commonly available include most varieties of the following: Benson & Hedges, Camel, Marlboro, Chesterfield, Pall Mall, Philip Rothman, Lucky Strike, Merit, Peter Stuyvessant, Pueblo, Rothman, Vogue, and Winston. Local brands include Diana, Muratti, Sax, and Fortuna.

Rolling papers and tobacco is also very popular, with the main brands being Golden Virginia, Pueblo, American Spirit, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, and occasionally Drum and Chesterfield. Prices of rolling tobacco in Rome are around €6 for 30 grams.

Can I buy menthol cigarettes in Rome?

Menthol cigarettes are not approved in the EU, and are almost impossible to get in Italy outside US military bases.

How do I use a cigarette machine in Rome?

Warning: buying cigarettes in Rome after the stores have closed can prove extremely problematic. In central areas such as Trastevere some bars have a tobacco licence and a counter within the building, and there are sometimes independent tabaccai that stay open late, but outside the tourist centers, most tabaccai close early – around 6 or 7pm.

Many of these do have 24-hour vending machines facing the street, but you can not use them unless you can prove your age with an Italian-government-issued card. This is because they are not allowed to sell tobacco to minors. In these machines you have by law to verify your age using an Italian health service card: a tessera sanitaria (TESS-eh-rah san-eet-AHR-ee-ah), or an Italian tax card, known as a codice fiscale (CO-di-cheh fiss-CAHL-eh).

Therefore we strongly recommend, if you smoke, that you stock up on cigarettes during the day. However should you be caught after hours and find yourself having to use a machine, you may have to appeal to the kindness of a passer-by to borrow a government card. A forlorn person standing at a cigarette machine waiting to borrow a government card is quite a familiar sight, and the person waiting may even be a local Italian. If you look desperate and ask for a tessera, a kind Roman will eventually take pity on you.

Or of course you could always use this opportunity to give up! 

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Photo credit: AFP

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