In what looks to be a landmark case, the family of a victim of passive smoking will receive a 400,000 compensation settlement from her former employer, the Italian ministry of education. Maria Sposetti, who died in 2000 in an unrelated road accident, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992, having shared an office for the previous 12 years with heavy-smoking colleagues. The dead womans husband said his wife had protested for years and pleaded, in vain, to be moved to another office. Following treatment in October 1992, Mrs Sposetti returned to work and was moved to a different office, which was also used by smokers.

It is the second such payout this year following a case in March, in which a smoker, who claimed to be unaware of the risks of smoking, was awarded 200,000 in damages from the Italian state-run tobacco company, Ente Tabacchi. Italian consumers association Codacons has predicted a flood of claims, with potentially 150,000 in Lazio alone.

Smoking is now banned in Italy in all government buildings and public spaces such as bars, restaurants and post offices.