Background: While Italy has implemented some tobacco control policies over the last few decades, which resulted in a decreased smoking prevalence, there is still considerable scope to strengthen tobacco control policies consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO) policy guidelines. The present study aims to evaluate the effect of past and project the effect of future tobacco control policies on smoking prevalence and associated premature mortality in Italy.
Methods: To assess, individually and in combination, the effect of seven types of policies, we used the SimSmoke simulation model of tobacco control policy. The model uses population, smoking rates and tobacco control policy data for Italy.
Results: Significant reductions of smoking prevalence and premature mortality can be achieved through tobacco price increases, high intensity media campaigns, comprehensive cessation treatment program, strong health warnings, stricter smoke-free air regulations and advertising bans, and youth access laws. With a comprehensive approach, the smoking prevalence can be decreased by as much as 12% soon after the policies are in place, increasing to a 30% reduction in the next twenty years and a 34% reduction by 30 years in 2040. Without effective tobacco control policies, a total of almost 300 thousand lives will be prematurely lost due to smoking by the year 2040.
Conclusion: Besides presenting the benefits of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy, the model helps identify information gaps in surveillance and evaluation schemes that will promote the effectiveness of future tobacco control policy in Italy.