In a move cheered by Vatican City’s non-smokers, the world’s smallest country has applied its smoking ban to electronic cigarettes.

In a Dec. 9 communique, Bishop Fernando Vérgez, the Secretary General of the Governatorate of Vatican City State, reminded employees of the 2002 law passed by the city state banning smoking on its territory, and extraterritorial offices of the Holy See.

The bishop said electronic cigarettes “are to be considered as completely equivalent to the tobacco products” banned in that legislation.

E-cigarettes typically heat a solution that contains nicotine, the chemical which makes cigarettes and e-cigarettes addictive. They are generally considered less harmful than paper-and-tobacco cigarettes, though there is little research on their long-term health effects.

According to the U.S. government’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, 21.4 percent of Italians smoke, compared to 13.7 percent of Americans.

Italy introduced its own ban on smoking in public spaces in 2005, although the law doesn’t apply to vaping.

Employees have told Crux that vaping had become increasingly common in Vatican offices, leading to several complaints.

The rise of vaping – especially by minors – has been a subject of debate at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Anti-vaping groups and health experts argue that the flavors often used in electronic cigarettes – like fruit, mint, menthol and others – attract underage teens. But vaping proponents say flavors can help adult smokers switch to vaping from cigarettes, which cause cancer, lung disease, stroke and other deadly diseases.

Underage vaping has reached what health officials call epidemic levels. In the latest government survey, 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month, despite federal law banning sales to those under 18. More than a third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age for e-cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.

This article incorporated material from the Associated Press.

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