A new, stricter law on smoking is being introduced in Greece, Europe’s heaviest smoking nation.
Lighting up in hospitals, schools, vehicles and all public places is now banned. Until now, legislation introduced in 2002 restricting smoking areas had been widely ignored. One cigarette kiosk owner said: “It’s a positive measure. It’s all a matter of habit, as long as it’s enforced.” Some 42 percent of the Greek population smokes and 20,000 people a year die from cigarette-related diseases, which cost the health ministry more than two billon euros. According to their size, restaurants, bars and cafes must either provide a smoking space, or decide whether they are smoking or non-smoking. It remains to be seen whether the Greeks, many of whom perceive it as an infringement on their civil liberties, will abide by the new legislation. “Greeks in general don’t like to be told what to do,” said non-smoker Marios Gartaganis. “They are also very lax about rules and regulations. In hospitals, there’s been a non-smoking ban for years and yet people smoke in hospitals.” At around three euros a packet, cigarettes in Greece remain cheaper than in most other EU countries. However, the government hopes fines of up to 2,000 euros will dissuade both smokers and cafe owners from breaking the new law.