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Could Italy become the first European country to ban smoking while driving?

Smoking while driving isn't always against the law in Italy, but that may soon change.
Smoking while driving isn't always against the law in Italy, but that may soon change. Photo: @apho/Unsplash
A complete ban on smoking at the wheel is being considered this week as Italy's parliament debates changes to the Highway Code.

Tougher penalties for using phones while driving, regulations on the use of e-scooters, increased speed limits on some motorways, and incentives for taking a taxi to work are also among the proposed law changes put forward by parties within Italy’s coalition government this week.

The potential new rules have not yet been approved, and will be evaluated by the Environment and Transport Committee on Tuesday before being debated in parliament later this week, according to news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Italy to double fines for disabled parking space violations

While some measures such as curbs on e-scooters are expected to win unanimous approval, it’s unclear how much support there would be for a ban on smoking while driving in Italy.

Almost one quarter of the Italian adult population smokes, according to World Health Organisation data, at 23 percent – slightly above the EU average. 

However Italy’s smoking rate is lower than that in many other large European countries.

A blanket ban would mean Italy had the toughest rules on smoking while driving a private vehicle of any European nation.

At the moment, lighting up in the car is only illegal in Italy if you’re with anyone who is under 18 or pregnant.

Under a law introduced in 2016, drivers or passengers can be fined between 50 and 500 euros if caught smoking in a vehicle with pregnant women or children under the age of twelve. A lesser fine of 25 to 250 euros applies if 12-17 year olds are in the car.

Similar rules are in place in several European countries including Austria, France, Greece, Finland and the UK, though none have a complete ban on smoking at the wheel.

Reader question: Will my UK driving licence still be valid in Italy after 2021?

Many US states and Canadian provinces also forbid smoking with minors present, with varying age limits.

Several countries worldwide do have a total ban in place, including Argentina, Armenia, Jordan and Iran.

The Netherlands, Germany and Poland are also considering the possible introduction of a complete smoking ban in vehicles, reports Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

While people often think that smoking while driving would be illegal in many more countries, the UK’s AA describes the assumption that you can’t legally smoke and drive as “a popular driving myth”.


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