Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis officially launched the Health Ministry’s national action plan against smoking on Tuesday, hailing it as a “bold initiative for protecting public health” that would “modernize and refine public life.”
“The enemy is tobacco smoke, not smokers,” Mitsotakis said during the presentation of the plan at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in southern Athens, pointing out that other countries including the US, France and Turkey have succeeded in banning smoking in public spaces and Greece can do the same by enforcing much-flouted legislation that was originally introduced in 2009. The past decade has seen 11 acts of legislation but zero results, he said. “This is the sad account of the indoor smoking ban, supposedly enacted in 2009,” Mitsotakis said.
Citing official figures, Mitsotakis said that 94.6 percent of the population is exposed to passive smoking in one way or another as a result of the failure of successive governments to enforce the ban. One in six boys and one in eight girls have been reported as smoking at the age of 15, he said.
Smoking is estimated to cause around 20,000 deaths per year, as well as being responsible for 700,000 days of hospital care, at a cost of 1 billion euros, he said.
Presenting the Health Ministry’s new campaign, Mitsotakis said it has four main pillars of action: creating a non-smoking culture that emphasizes prevention; the protection of non-smokers; increasing medical support for smokers trying to quit; and evaluating new tobacco products and regulating their circulation on the market. “The aim is not division but a new alliance for health,” he said.
A four-digit phone line, 1142, has also been set up to report those violating the smoking ban while inspections will be carried out by mixed teams that include police. Fines will range from 100 to 1,500 euros for smokers and from 500 to 10,000 euros for establishments.
According to Mitsotakis, the initial estimates of the recent crackdown on smoking in public spaces showed that compliance with the law is over 70 percent already. “Just as we learned to wear seat belts and helmets, we will learn to smoke outside bars and cafes,” he said.