The city council plans to introduce a ban on smoking “in public parks, gardens and in other places that are usually crowded and where youngsters gather”, local councillor for the environment Cecilia Del Re told La Repubblica.
The measure will be included in Florence's upcoming plan to reduce air pollution, Del Re told the newspaper, which is due to be approved by the end of February. Allowing time to define and communicate the new rules, the ban is expected to come into force around June 2021.
That will make Florence the second big city in Italy after Milan to widely restrict smoking outdoors in the city centre. Milan's ban, approved late last year and effective from this month, forbids lighting up in places such as public transport stops, parks, childrens' play areas, sports stadiums and cemeteries.
Other Italian cities including Verona and Bolzano already outlaw smoking in public parks – though not on the streets – while Venice has proposed making parts of its historic centre no-smoking zones (without passing any legislation to date).
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Health and environmental advocates have long pushed for restrictions on smoking outdoors, notably on Italy's beaches, saying the habit contributes to air pollution and litter.
The campaign has taken on new urgency amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which added a new health risk to the act of smoking at a time when Italy requires people to wear face masks in public at all times, including outside. Studies have also suggested a possible link between poor air quality and severe illness from Covid-19.
Consumer watchdog Codacons has urged Italian authorities to follow Spain's example and forbid smoking in public outdoor places throughout the country. The Spanish government in August banned smoking on the street, as recommended by the World Health Organisation, as coronavirus cases surged.
Italy has had a ban on smoking indoors since 2005, but rules are less strict than in some other European countries; smoking is allowed on bar and restaurant terraces and next to the doors of public buildings, for example.