Italian Health Minister endangers hundreds of thousands of ex-smokers

Rome, 6 March 2023

Last week, on 4th March, the Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci notified the Italian College of Ministers of his intentions to present a draft law aimed to ban outdoor smoking and vaping in public places. The ban includes alternative products to combustion cigarettes, such as e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products. More than 700 thousand vapers in Italy could see their switch from smoking to vaping endangered if the Italian Government accepts the Health Ministry’s proposal, suggests World Vapers’ Alliance. 

Michael Landl, Director of the World Vapers’ Alliance, commented: 

“Minister Schillaci seems to be unaware of the unintended consequences an outdoor ban on e-cigarettes could have. Banning vaping outdoors will reduce the incentives for smokers to switch and could force hundreds of thousands of former smokers in Italy to take up the habit once again. There is no evidence that secondhand vaping is harmful, and all studies rule out the existence of the passive vaper. If vaping is treated the same as tobacco and banned outdoors, many vapers would go back to smoking. A differentiated regulation is needed to help smokers switch and stay away from cigarettes.”

“It is worrying that the minister is ignoring the evidence on secondhand vaping presented in so many international studies. He should base his policies on science and real-life experience of millions of consumers instead of anti-vaping scaremongering.”

The Health Ministry also proposed in its draft to completely ban vaping in the presence of children and pregnant women; and in train stations, bus stops, and ferry landings. These measures have been announced under the premise that being near someone who is vaping, what is known as “secondhand vaping”, is harmful. However, this has not been demonstrated and there is evidence suggesting that the components present in e-cigarette vapour are virtually harmless. 

The aerosols from e-cigarettes contain nicotine that can be assimilated by bystanders, but they do not carry carcinogenic substances like the smoke of tobacco does. According to the Royal College of Physicians, “Although nicotine delivery from e-cigarettes depends on a number of factors, […], they can in principle deliver a high dose of nicotine, in the absence of the vast majority of the harmful constituents of tobacco smoke”. And, as the Yorkshire Cancer Research states, “Nicotine is not a carcinogen; there is no evidence that sustained use of nicotine alone increases the risk of cancer”. When these two results are taken into account, it is possible to conclude that the risk of inhaling e-cigarette vapour is very limited.

Leaving aside the fact that nicotine is relatively safe, research showed that “those near a ‘vaper’ inhale 100 times less nicotine than a passive smoker (…) negligible levels that rule out the existence of the passive vaper”. 

“Countries who fight vaping and similar products are losing the fight against smoking because they refuse to acknowledge scientific facts and real-world evidence. Vaping should be excluded from free-smoke areas restrictions and allowed everywhere. This would be yet another incentive for smokers to switch to a safer alternative. Forty-three thousand deaths per year in Italy due to smoking should be reason enough to embrace harm reduction instead of fighting it. It is time for politicians to get on board with harm reduction – for the sake of public health and millions of smokers in Italy and worldwide” concluded Landl. 


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Vaping can save 200 million lives and flavours play a key role in helping smokers quit. However, policymakers want to limit or ban flavours, putting our effort to end smoking-related deaths in jeopardy.

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