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Car smoking ban weighed

'Lighting up takes twice as long as answering cellphone'

27 November, 18:02
Car smoking ban weighed (ANSA) - Rome, November 27 - Italian citizen protection and driving groups on Friday welcomed a proposed ban on smoking at the wheel.

"Smoking while driving a vehicle increases the risks of accidents," said Carlo Rienzi, head of the citizens and consumer watchdog agency Codacons.

"It's been estimated that 15% of the accidents caused by drivers' taking their eyes off the wheel are because of them lighting up".

Rienzi said Codacons had been fighting for years for a ban on smoking while driving.

The road safety group BastUnAttimo (It Only Takes A Moment) was also pleased with the bill proposed by Northern League Senator Piergiorgio Stiffoni.

"Every day there are some 600 road accidents in Italy and 90% are caused by drivers' not paying proper attention. A large amount of those are because smokers stop to light up or stub out their cigarettes".

The president of the Italian Automobile Club, Enrico Gelpi, said "we're delighted that Italy is finally going to move into line with countries like the UK where smoking in cars is off-limits".

Stiffoni's bill is said to have broad bipartisan support and is expected to be passed from the Senate to the House before Christmas.

According to the new measure, drivers caught smoking would be fined 250 euros and have five points docked from their licenses.

News of the bill made the front page of Italy's biggest daily Corriere della Sera Friday, which cited studies showing that it takes two seconds to answer a cellphone, whose use is already banned, while drivers require five seconds to light up.

Corriere quoted Stiffoni as saying: "Cigarettes are a menace in the car. Just think of the time smokers take to get their cigarettes out and light up, not to mention the smoke getting in their eyes. Then there's the problem of scrabbling around for the ashtray or winding down the window to throw out the butts".

"Cigarettes reduce attention levels, and that kills," Stiffoni said.

But not everyone welcomed the move Friday.

Singer-songwriter Gino Paolo, whose many album covers show him in moody cigarette-holding poses, said: "People have a right to smoke in the car".

"I'm much more careful, aware and awake when I smoke at the wheel".

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