NEWS

Crackdown on smoking to begin in public buildings

PENNY BOULOUTZA

TAGS: Health

A pledge by the government to crack down on smoking in public places – finally enforcing a law that was introduced a decade ago – will initially focus on Greece’s Parliament building, followed by ministries, hospitals, schools and other places where social services are provided, officials decided on Wednesday.

The decision to move ahead quickly with the crackdown was taken during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis which included Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias and his deputy Vassilis Kontozamanis.

Officials also decided to launch a campaign to boost public awareness of the dangers of both active and passive smoking as authorities plan to spread the crackdown from public services to public places – bars, restaurants and cafes – over the coming months.

The authorities are confident that they have public opinion on their side. According to a survey by the Institute of Public Health, 76 percent of citizens are angry that Greece is the only European Union country that does not enforce a legislated ban on smoking in public areas. A total of 83.8 percent of respondents said they believe that the non-enforcement of the ban is a sign of the country’s “cultural decline.”

The Greek Police (ELAS) is to play an active role in the crackdown while a hotline will be set up so that members of the public can report violations.

According to existing legislation, the municipal police, coast guard, local authorities and state health inspectors share responsibility for conducting checks to ensure the anti-smoking law is being enforced. ELAS is only supposed to intervene when requested to do so by other bodies.

In his first meeting with the head of the country’s Body of Inspectors for Health and Welfare Services (SEYYP), Stavros Evangelatos, Kikilias sought to underline the government’s vision for a strict crackdown, Kathimerini understands. SEYYP is to oversee a probe into reports of smoking at places where social services are provided while also seeking to enforce the anti-smoking law. Offenders in the public sector are to face disciplinary action and fines of up to 500 euros.

Meanwhile volunteers from the Greek Cancer Society and the municipality of Alimos, a coastal suburb of Athens, are to put up banners on the beach on Saturday, appealing to smokers to properly dispose of their cigarette butts.

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