Health Minister Orazio Schillaci has been labeled a “communist” for his proposal to extend Italy’s public smoking ban, reports Reuters.
Schillaci’s plan, which also covers vaping, would cover the outside areas of bars and public transport stops, along with parks if pregnant women and children are present.
Junior Culture Minister Vittorio Sgarbi called Schillaci’s view “intimidating” and said such bans would instead encourage people to smoke.
“This is something typical of an authoritarian and dictatorial communist regime,” Sgarbi told AdnKronos news agency.
Italy’s minister of infrastructure and transport, Matteo Salvini, too, was outraged by the proposed law, saying that it was thanks to electronic cigarettes that he quit smoking, according to The Blitz.
“Electronic cigarettes are helping a lot of people to abandon regular cigarettes,” Salvini wrote on Twitter.
Some 24 percent of adult Italians were smokers last year—roughly 12.4 million people and the highest percentage recorded since 2009, according to Italy’s ISS health institute.
The government passed a ban on smoking indoors in 2003, which came into force two years later.
Health association Fondazione Umberto Veronesi estimates that at least 43,000 people die in Italy every year from smoking-related diseases.