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Put that out! Italy ministers fume over proposed smoking ban

ROME (Reuters) - The Italian health minister's proposals to extend a smoking ban include the outdoor areas of bars and parks, according to details reported by local media, drawing the ire of right-wing cabinet colleagues who labelled him a "communist."

Minister Orazio Schillaci, a technocrat with no party affiliation, said in January he would crackdown on smoking, including of e-cigarettes, which are being widely used by teenagers.

The new rules will include the outside areas of bars and at public transport stops, La Stampa newspaper reported on Monday. The prohibition will also be extended to parks if pregnant women and children are present, it said.

Junior Culture Minister Vittorio Sgarbi, known for expressing his opinions in a flamboyant style, 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 top health institute (ISS) said some 24% of adult Italians were smokers last year - roughly 12.4 million people and the highest percentage recorded since 2009.

The government passed a ban on smoking indoors in 2003, which came into force two years later.

Health association Fondazione Umberto Veronesi estimates at least 43,000 people die in Italy every year for smoke-related reasons.

But the proposed clampdown also faces scepticism from Deputy Prime Minister and League party leader Matteo Salvini, who quit cigarettes four years ago but said the open-air ban on e-cigarettes was "exaggerated."

"Electronic cigarettes are helping a lot of people to abandon regular cigarettes," he added on Twitter.

The Health Ministry did not reply to a request for comment.

The proposals would need to be approved by the cabinet before being passed to parliament.

(Reporting By Gavin Jones and Angelo Amante; Editing by Sharon Singleton)