Europe

Greece in new crackdown on smokers and tobacco ads

Image caption Previous attempts to impose partial bans were largely ignored in Greece

A new law has come into force in Greece banning smoking in enclosed public spaces and tobacco advertising.

It is the second such attempt to curb tobacco addiction in Europe's biggest-smoking nation in just over a year.

Smokers who break the law could be fined hundreds of euros and businesses may have to pay several thousand.

But restaurant and cafe owners say they are being targeted at a time of economic crisis.

It is estimated that more than 40% of Greek adults smoke - well above the EU's average of 29%.

'Changing attitudes'

The Greek government says the smoking ban is aimed at protecting public health.

It adds that - like a recently adopted austerity plan to repair a near-bankrupt economy - the smoking ban will help Greeks to consider the consequences of their actions.

"It will contribute to the work we're doing that's aimed at changing attitudes, norms and behaviour to improve our quality of life," Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Tuesday.

From Wednesday, those caught violating the new law face fines of up to 500 euros (£413; $636). Businesses may have to pay up to 10,000 euros.

The government says the measure is needed after previous efforts to impose a partial smoking ban have been largely ignored.

But bar and cafe owners say they are being unfairly targeted.

"What I believe is that it [the ban] will harm places that are strongly connected with drinking and entertainment in general," Christos Giannakouris, a bar owner in Athens, told the Associated Press.

Waitress Artemis Livardou said there were other ways of protecting non-smokers without resorting to an outright ban.

"Although I would support a law that would prohibit smoking in some places, I think owners of these places should be given the choice to create zones for smokers and non-smokers. Thus, we smokers could find and choose the place which we would like to go to."

Here are a selection of your comments reacting to this story:

I enjoy one or two cigars a week, while my wife smokes a packet of 20 over about ten days or so - but she can't abide the aroma of cigars. For obscure reasons, casinos and the larger night clubs in Greece have been exempted from the smoking ban. I have never seen anyone smoking on Athens public transport in the past ten years which is remarkable for Greece. But I think now the government has gone too far. Well-ventilated bars should be exempted including the many which are open to the street. Why a ban on cigar lounges or bars which have designated sealed-off smoking areas? If they are worried about public health why not ban junk food and toxic cola drinks? To avoid the big killer, stress, consider those who have to listen to mobile phones in public or suffer from unruly brats in enclosed public places, or badly controlled dogs that never seem to stop barking night and day. If you can't abide my bad habits, why should I have to put up with yours?

Paul Papadopoulos, Athens, Greece

I live in Greece and am happy to see them try again to implement a ban. However, I wonder if this will have any difference. I hope so. It's about time Greece started to enforce its laws. At least give people who don't want to come home stinking of other peoples exhaled smoke a chance to enjoy a bit of fresh air. Time for Greece to get on the bandwagon and curb its smoking habit. Being a non-smoker in Greece, you are a minority.

Josef, Athens, Greece

It will be interesting to see if this new ban actually works - the law introduced in July 2009 was doomed to failure because it left far too many loopholes open to individual interpretation and so no one really knew if they were allowed to smoke in bars, restaurants and so on and the majority of bar and restaurant owners were unsure themselves as to whether they could allow smoking or not. This new blanket ban is far clearer and, if enforced, should make a significant difference. I am not holding my breath though (no pun intended), as Greeks are renowned for ignoring laws, even those designed to save lives, such as motorcycle helmet and seatbelt laws, and the Greek police are not renowned for enforcing the law. But at least now we non-smokers have a firm footing on the basis of which to complain and a number to call if those complaints are not heeded.

Bryan Hollamby, Kilkis, Northern Greece

I am a student living in Athens and a smoker. I will be leaving the country in a few days for my masters but what I am leaving behind is people which I am sure will not obey this smoking ban, version 2.0. I would not either if I stayed. I haven't so far, not in places were my presence is a personal choice for a place to get a coffee or a beer. The government is simply trying to fill the holes in the budget with new fines. Casinos and large entertainment areas with big interests have been exempted from this ban, not that anyone is surprised. I can decide for myself whether I smoke or not, like many of my peers. How is this smoking ban not a form of oppression, with so many smokers facing fines, in such a difficult and stressful time for everyone here.

Marios Christodoulou, Athens, Greece

I think the ban doesn't yet go far enough. In the summer, most people eat at tables outside tavernas and restaurants but smoke still drifts into your face and particles land in the food on your plate. Smoking should be banned from all places where food is cooked, served and consumed and I certainly can't see Greeks obeying the law in the winter when they have no choice but to eat inside. Civil disobedience and smoking are part of who they are and nothing or anyone will ever change them.

Annulla, Elounda, Crete, Greece

Let's hope this time people in charge of law enforcement will do what they have to do, instead of looking the other way. Also it's really sad that a law has to be enforced to communicate what is really supposed to be common human sense, i.e. not to wilfully pollute with toxic fumes a common enclosed space where everyone is entitled to breathe free from such airborne poisons. Besides, a smoke-free environment is beneficial to all.

Mike Papas, Athens

I am a smoker and I do not plan to quit any time soon. A full ban on smoking in closed public and work places in Greece has become inevitable after partial bans failed to create a social balance. And when civic society fails, eventually the state takes over. I will respect the ban by simply stopping going out to restaurants and other such places, at least during the cold and rainy months of the year, and by always being seated outdoors in the warm and sunny period. Business-wise, it will most certainly create a drop in productivity, through the loss of working hours in order to go out to smoke or through nerves-tension. Eventually, business will start firing and stop hiring smokers. On a political level, it is obvious that the current government, formerly of a Euro-Socialist ideology, tries to fill its ideological void with "quality of life" agendas.

Alecos Papadopoulos, Athens, Greece

If this new law is enforced, it will begin to change habits which are dearly loved here in Greece. Personally I believe it's time for the rights of non-smokers to be upheld in this country.

Camille Marquand, Athens, Greece

What a wonderful, sensible idea from the Greek government. However, there is complete backlash with this legislation that I daresay the Greek government will have to amend the rule in some way or another. There are simply just way too many smokers in this country.

Kirk, Chania, Crete, Greece

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