• June 16, 2024

Beating the smoking bans

 Beating the smoking bans

Just say no

It was often said that Italian smokers wouldn’t comply with a public-places tobacco-smoking ban, but they did. And much to many people’s surprise, French smokers also fell in line with such a ban. In Greece, meanwhile, many people refused to believe that smokers would observe a public places smoking ban, and they were correct.

In a story for CetusNews.com, Nektaria Stamouli describes how Greek citizens ‘still take pride in puffing where they please’ despite the country’s having passed a ban on smoking inside restaurants and offices in 2009.

The Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis was said to have blithely flouted the ban, lighting up while giving a press conference last year. And at the Finance Ministry, smokers recently puffed away in a hallway under a large banner reading ‘Greece stubs out cigarettes’.

Taxi drivers were said to smoke while driving, holding their cigarettes out an open window only when they had passengers.

About 37 percent of Greeks smoke, compared with an EU average of 26 percent, according to a 2016 EU survey. In response to the poll, 87 percent of Greeks said they had been exposed to indoor smoking in bars.

Nevertheless, last year Greece’s parliament added to the country’s regulations by passing a ban on electronic-cigarette vaping in public places. During the debate, some lawmakers noted the irony of passing a new law in a chamber that ignores the original one. “Meeting room, parties’ offices, secretariats, walkways, toilets – the cigarettes are everywhere,” said center-right parliamentarian Niki Kerameos. “If we don’t set an example of following the laws, how do we expect citizens to do so?”

Stamouli said that as the country grappled with a seven-year economic downturn, enforcement of all types of infractions was haphazard. Budget cuts in the Attica region, which included Athens, had reduced by two-thirds the number of wardens who handed down fines for traffic and other offences, including smoking. The number of municipal police, who could also issue fines, had been downsized. And a telephone hotline for people wanting to call the Health Ministry to complain about smoking violations was rarely answered.

The Health Minister Andreas Xanthos has conceded that the smoking regulations haven’t been implemented. “What we need is to give the feeling that we are restarting,” he said to Parliament on May 31, International No Tobacco Day.

Stamouli’s piece is at: