Greek smok­ing ban widely flouted as peo­ple keep light­ing up in res­tau­rants, bars and cafes

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY PENNY BOULOUTZA

Greece’s smok­ing ban for in­door pub­lic spa­ces, first in­tro­duced in Septem­ber 2010, has all but gone up in smoke. De­spite gov­ern­ment pledges of vig­i­lance and fines, smok­ers con­tinue to light up in the vast ma­jor­ity of res­tau­rants, bars and cafes. Anti-smok­ing laws are only re­spected in pub­lic trans­port, med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties (though not al­ways) and a small num­ber of good, and usu­ally pricey, res­tau­rants. The ban ap­pears to be com­pletely ig­nored in the coun­try’s tav­er­nas, cafes and bars. In­spec­tions by state author­i­ties have eased dra­mat­i­cally. “Since the mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force was dis­banded, in­spec­tions have only been car­ried out if some­one makes a com­plaint to the Hel­lenic Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion (KEELPNO),” At­tica Re­gional Author­ity of­fi­cials told Kathimerini. Mean­while, a four-digit tele­phone hot­line where peo­ple could make com­plaints about al­leged ban vi­o­la­tions or get in­for­ma­tion is long out of or­der. Cur­rently, a body of pub­lic health in­spec­tors set up to carry out on-site in­spec­tions only act upon com­plaints re­gard­ing ban vi­o­la­tions in hos­pi­tals. Re­cently, a unit vis­ited the Me­taxa Can­cer Hospi­tal in Pi­raeus on two oc­ca­sions to stop vis­i­tors from smok­ing on the premises of the clinic. Of course one can find ex­cep­tions to the rule, as a small mi­nor­ity of smok­ers choose to re­spect the of­fi­cial re­stric­tions, even if those are largely breached. “Our venue was re­cently booked for an en­gage­ment party. We left it up to the guests to de­cide whether they would light up in­side the hall. To my sur­prise, ev­ery­one would pop out for a smoke,” a restau­rant-owner in Pi­raeus told the news­pa­per. “When I asked why, they said there were kids in­side the room and that it would not be fair for non-smok­ers to put up with cig­a­rette smoke,” he said. Mean­while, Health Min­istry of­fi­cials are ex­am­in­ing ways to en­force the ex­ist­ing re­stric­tions. “We need to bring the is­sue back into fo­cus,” Ioan­nis Basko­zos, gen­eral sec­re­tary of pub­lic health, told Kathimerini. “Dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties may be put for­ward be­cause of the state that the na­tion is in, but pro­tect­ing [pub­lic health] from smok­ing is im­por­tant,” he said. Basko­zos met last week with Panayi­o­tis Behrakis, chair­man of the Na­tional Steer­ing Com­mit­tee for Tobacco Con­trol and pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Net­work for Smok­ing and Tobacco Preven­tion, to dis­cuss the is­sue. An ac­tion group will be set up in the com­ing weeks with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of KEELPNO, the Na­tional School of Pub­lic Health and the Hel­lenic Can­cer So­ci­ety.

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