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To estimate the immediate as well as the longer-term impact of the 2005 smoke-free law on smoking prevalence, cessation and intensity both in the overall population and separately by educational level.Interrupted time–series analyses of 11 cross-sectional nationally representative surveys.Italy, 1999–2010.Adults aged 20–64 years.For each year we computed the prevalence of current smoking, the quit ratio and the mean number of cigarettes smoked per day. All measures were standardized by age. Segmented linear regression analyses were performed for each smoking variable separately by sex.Among males, smoking prevalence decreased by 2.6% (P = 0.002) and smoking cessation increased by 3.3% (P = 0.006) shortly after the ban, but both measures tended to return to pre-ban values in the following years. This occurred among both highly and low-educated males. Among low-educated females, the ban was followed by a 1.6% decrease (P = 0.120) in smoking prevalence and a 4.5% increase in quit ratios (P < 0.001). However, these favourable trends reversed over the following years. Among highly educated females, trends in smoking prevalence and cessation were not altered by the ban. Among both males and females, long-term trends in the daily number of cigarettes, which were already declining well before the implementation of the policy, changed to a minor extent.The impact of the Italian smoke-free policy on smoking and inequalities in smoking was short-term. Smoke-free policies may not achieve the secondary effect of reducing smoking prevalence in the long term, and they may have limited effects on inequalities in smoking.