Those who are under eighteen years of age cannot buy cigarettes but they cannot be sanctioned for smoking at home or outdoors. These rules apply also to foreigners visiting the Italian peninsula for any reason. However, violations are rarely sanctioned by the authorities. During night hours and holidays it is possible to buy cigarettes at the vending machines of the tobacco shops. Foreigners should be aware that the buyer must possess an Italian identity document (identity card/tax code/health card) which he/she will have to insert into the machine to prove he/she is 18 years old.
Smoking in Italy
Law December 28, 2015, no. 221, and Legislative Decree January 12, 2016, no. 6, have established new rules, prohibitions, and sanctions regarding tobacco, most of which are effective starting from February 2, 2016.
1) Minors (under the age of eighteen) buying and smoking cigarettes in Italy
In Italy minors are not allowed to buy cigarettes, loose tobacco, cigars or similar tobacco products.
Although it is forbidden for minors to buy tobacco products in Italy, it can happen that those who are authorized to sell them are not so careful about the age of customers. Furthermore, “adults” often “help” minors buy cigarettes, and also those who should sanction minors violating the law seem not to pay much attention to this matter. Therefore, very often it happens that minors are seen buying cigarettes and smoking anywhere although they are not (or should not be) allowed to buy cigarettes or similar products.
In other words, those who are younger than eighteen cannot buy cigarettes but they cannot be sanctioned for smoking at home or outdoors.
These provisions apply also to foreigners visiting the Italian peninsula for any reason.
2) Where to buy cigarettes, loose tobacco, cigars or similar
Anyone over the age of eighteen can buy tobacco products at a (licensed) tobacco shop (in Italian “Sali e Tabacchi” or “Tabaccheria”) or in some authorized bars, hotels, beach resorts, “Sale Bingo”, betting agencies, and similar.
Special retailers may be established within railways, cars, trams and maritime stations, airports, barracks, and some other places.
Electronic cigarettes are generally sold in dedicated shops.
In order to sell tobacco products, all of these sellers must be previously authorized by the competent Italian Authority.
3) Where smoking is prohibited
Law 3/2003 (as recently amended by Legislative Decree January 12, 2016, no. 6) lays down measures to eliminate exposure of non-smokers to secondhand smoke in workplaces and enclosed public places.
Currently, smoking is prohibited in all enclosed spaces, public and private, such as in professional offices of lawyers, engineers, doctors etc., in general all private offices open to the public, bars, restaurants, other businesses places, subways, airports, taxis, train stations, airplanes, trains, museums, libraries, private clubs, gyms, clubs, cinemas, theaters, schools (including yards during the break), public administration offices (ministries etc.), hospitals etc..
On the contrary, therefore, smoking is allowed in private residences (homes), in all enclosed spaces not open to the public, in all outdoor or partially open spaces, such as parks, beaches, streets, sidewalk cafés and terraces of restaurants, bars etc., and in the dedicated smoking areas of restaurants, bars, shopping malls, etc. These dedicated smoking areas must be marked as such and adequately separated from the area where smoking is prohibited. In this case the room must also be equipped with a ventilation and air exchange system that must operate regularly. It is also possible to smoke in dedicated smoking rooms of hotels, courtyards, private offices or on balconies which are not open to the public, etc..
Violators are punished by pecuniary administrative sanctions that go from € 27.50 to € 550. However, if the violation is committed by those responsible for supervising the respect of the smoking ban (for example, they do not report violators or do not affix the signs of non-smoking areas etc.), the pecuniary administrative sanction goes from a minimum of € 200 to a maximum of € 2,200.
In public offices the sanction may be imposed directly by the employees in charge of supervising, or by the police, security guards, officers and agents of the judicial police, etc.. In private offices the violation is reported to the aforementioned police officers who will then impose a sanction on the offender.
4) Prohibition to sell cigarettes to minors (under the age of eighteen)
As mentioned above, minors are not allowed to buy cigarettes or similar tobacco products. Therefore, the following provisions are intended to punish not minors but whoever sells tobacco products to minors.
Anyone selling or administering tobacco products (loose tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, etc) to minors shall be punished with a fine that goes from € 500 to € 3,000 plus the suspension for fifteen days of the operating license (in case of recidivism the fine goes from € 1,000 to € 8,000 but the operating license will be revoked).n1
In order to verify the actual age of those who intend to buy cigarettes, anyone who sells tobacco products has an obligation to ask the buyer at the time of purchase to show an identity document, unless it is absolutely clear that the purchaser is not a minor.
Almost all Italian tobacco shops put out vending machines, after closing time, for the sale of cigarettes to the public. Again, in order to verify the age of the buyer, the above provision has determined that these distributors shall be equipped with an automatic detection of the age of the buyer through a system that can read identity documents issued by the public administration. Therefore, in order to buy cigarettes, the buyer must possess an Italian identity card (“carta d’identità”), tax code (“codice fiscale”) or health card (“tessera sanitaria”).
5) Prohibition to sell electronic cigarettes containing nicotine to minors (under the age of eighteen)
According to Legislative Decree 6/2016, art. 24, in Italy it is forbidden to sell electronic cigarettes containing nicotine to minors, just as it is established for “regular” cigarettes.
Anyone selling or administering electronic cigarettes containing nicotine to minors shall be punished with a fine that goes from € 500 to € 3,000 plus the suspension for fifteen days of the operating license (in case of recidivism the fine goes from € 1,000 to € 8,000 but the operating license will be revoked).n2
In order to verify the actual age of those who intend to buy electronic cigarettes, anyone who sells tobacco products has an obligation to ask the buyer at the time of purchase to show an identity document, unless it is absolutely clear that the purchaser is not a minor.
It is prohibited to use electronic cigarettes in closed spaces, public and private educational institutions, and professional training centers.
In addition to the above, it should also be noticed that, even though in Italy it is possible to smoke electronic cigarettes in many public or private spaces, offices, stores, restaurants, bars, clubs etc., in recent years various public and private companies have decided not to allow their clients to use electronic cigarettes. For example, smoking of electronic cigarettes is not allowed on Alitalia’s flights or Trenitalia’s trains, etc..
With the “Circolare“ dated February 4, 2016, the Minister of Health, Beatrice Lorenzin, has provided some clarification regarding Legislative Decree 6/2016.