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Commission urges Greece to implement smoking ban in public places
The number of smokers in Greece has decreased over the last five years, however, the non-implementation of a smoking ban in enclosed public places has irritated the public, which calls it ‘cultural degradation’.

Contacted by euractiv.com for a comment, a European Commission spokesperson said generally, “We urge member states to follow the Council Recommendation on smoke-free environments.”

The Council Recommendation on smoke-free environments (November 2009) called on member states to adopt and implement laws to fully protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport, within three years of its adoption.

“Enhance smoke-free laws with supporting measures such as protecting children, encouraging efforts to give up tobacco use and pictorial warnings on tobacco packages,” the Recommendation reads.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Greece’s compliance with the smoke-free environments framework is quite poor.

According to a new survey conducted by ΚΑΠΑ Research and published last week, the number of smokers in the country has significantly decreased.

Particularly, 27.1 percent of the population today says it smokes compared to 36.7 percent recorded by researchers in 2012. This decrease within five years is a record on an EU level, analysts highlighted, adding that this is the smallest prevalence of smoking ever in the Greek population.

In addition, most Greeks said they opposed smoking and 88.1 percent consider it a national goal to reduce it.

The survey also focused on the issue of passive smoking in enclosed public places, with 83.8 percent of respondents claiming that the non-compliance with the law is a cultural degradation.

Moreover, 76.1 percent of Greeks are angry about the fact that the country is one of the few EU countries that allow smoking in enclosed areas, exposing its citizens to passive smoking.

Trikala, a city in northwestern Thessaly, took an initiative last year to put pressure on the government to implement the law.

“It is now time to stop turning a blind eye and make the mechanism for monitoring the implementation of existing national and EU legislation more effective,” Mayor Dimitris Papastergiou wrote to Greek Health Minister Andreas Ksanthos.

Commenting on the survey, Professor Panagiotis Behrakis, Director of the Institute of Public Health of the American College of Greece and head of the SmokeFreeGreece campaign, urged Greek politicians to follow the example of Trikala.

Last but not least, the survey also found that 69.8 percent of Greeks are willing to participate voluntarily in actions to reduce smoking, especially among young people.

Member states should priorities laws that protect public health because there is little value in having them if they are not enforced.

In 2002, a new law prohibiting smoking in public and private workplaces, in transport, in hospitals and other healthcare facilities as educational institutions was enacted.

However, the legislation was of little consequence, as exceptions were repeatedly granted to workplaces to allow continued smoking.

A new law was then adopted in 2008 that prohibited smoking (and consumption of tobacco products in other ways) in all workplaces (including private), taxis and ferries as well as in all enclosed public places (including bars and restaurants).

But since then, nothing has changed, despite the fact that a majority of smokers (62 percent) find the smoking ban positive.

A vast majority of bars and restaurants owners are not abiding by the law. According to the legislation, in clubs or bars of over 300 square meters, the smoking area can be 40 percent of the total area of the premises. The separation from the rest of the establishment must be carried by partitions at least two meters.

But owners have not taken such measures and the Greek authorities remain silent.

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