Greeks, Europe’s Heaviest Smokers, Try New Ban on Smoking

By Maria Petrakis and Natalie Weeks

July 1 (Bloomberg) — Greeks, the heaviest smokers in Europe, face new curbs on their habit today, as the country enforces its latest attempt to reduce tobacco consumption and the annual 2 billion euros ($2.8 billion) spent on smoking-related illnesses.

As of today, smoking is banned in all indoor public areas in Greece, including airports, taxis and buses. Cafes, restaurants and bars in establishments of less than 70 square meters must opt to be either smoking or non-smoking venues, while larger establishments must provide restricted ventilated cigarettes online buy areas.

“Despite all the preparation, the information, the talks, this is the hard part,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, the health minister, told reporters on June 25. “We will show — demolishing a myth that exists in Greece — that the country can adopt laws that are applied and applied by all.”

Greece has been passing laws to restrict smoking since 1856 and most recently in 2002. Still, 42 percent of Greeks are smokers, the highest rate in the European Union, partly because laws aren’t applied. Avramopoulos has announced a squad of inspectors to enforce the rules; smokers breaking the laws face fines of up to 500 euros, while proprietors may pay as much as 2,000 euros.

Smoke Outdoors

Originally due to come into force on Jan. 1 next year, Avramopoulos moved forward the implementation to the summer period to permit Greeks to adjust “gradually” to the restrictions, by allowing them to smoke outdoors. Today’s ban aligns Greece with much of the European Union, the U.S. and Australia, which have all acted to protect workers from tobacco smoke.

Around 20,000 people die from smoking every year in the Mediterranean country and 700 from second-hand smoke, according to health ministry figures, costing the state, the most indebted after Italy, 2.1 billion euros annually.

Sixty percent of workers in Greece are exposed daily to environment tobacco smoke, or ETS, a known carcinogen and toxin, according to the latest Eurobarometer on Tobacco. That’s the highest percentage in the European Union.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Petrakis in Athens at mpetrakis@bloomberg.netNatalie Weeks in Athens


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