Italy smoking: Want to light up in Milan?

Milan: It’s all change for the trendy crowds along the canals of Milan, used to holding a glass of aperitivo in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Because a ban on smoking outdoors has just come into force in a range of public places.

Smoking within a 10m (30ft) distance of other people is no longer permitted from Tuesday at bus and tram stops as well as in the city’s parks and green spaces, sports and recreational grounds, children’s play areas, stadiums and cemeteries.

Italy was the first country in the EU to pass a law backing an indoor ban on smoking in public places in 2003.

Milan is now the first Italian city to introduce such an extensive outdoor ban, part of a package of measures to improve air quality and combat climate change.

Other planned regulations, which will come into effect in phases over the next three decades, also target factors like car emissions and heating fuels.

One of Italy’s most densely populated cities, Milan sits on the flat plain of the Po Valley, which has the highest levels of air pollution in Western Europe.

Municipal councillor Marco Granelli says the ban’s aim is twofold – to help reduce dangerous fine particles in the air known as PM10, currently well over the European limit, and to protect citizens’ health.

“During this pandemic, we’ve seen that our health is fragile and our lungs are attacked by this virus,” says Mr Granelli, adding that keeping people’s respiratory systems healthy and strong has now become a priority: “Milan can’t not do this.”

The ban, which does not include electronic cigarettes, is being welcomed by smokers and non-smokers alike. Giulio, a doctor, describes it as “a very important decision to show respect to each other”. Emanuela, who is a smoker, says she considers the ban a necessary step: “Everyone knows that cigarettes cause cancer so people should not be forced to inhale our smoke.”

Milan has been one of the cities most devastated by Covid-19 and Emanuela believes smokers increase the risk of transmission by removing their masks, “so I expose myself and other people to the virus”.