Smoking ban is re-examined

The ban on smoking in most bars and cafes is not being adhered to nor applied properly, the government said yesterday, adding that it is launching a review of the law that was passed earlier this year after pressure from the European Union. Health Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou said that she had noted «great gaps in the application of the smoking ban» and would be re-examining the legal framework supporting it. At the end of last month, it was revealed that state inspectors had received more than 2,500 complaints about people violating the ban. It also emerged that some 2,200 cafe and bar owners in Athens had applied to turn their venues into all-smoking establishments but that none of the paperwork had been processed by authorities, in most cases because the applications were incomplete. Xenogiannakopoulou said she wants to address such problems. According to the law, which came into effect on July 1, premises smaller than 70 square meters will henceforth be either exclusively smoking or nonsmoking. Those that decide to allow smoking must have their operating licenses revised, have adequate air-conditioning units installed and display a special sticker determining their status. Larger establishments must restrict smoking to a separate section of their premises, exceeding not more than 30 percent of the surface area. Live music venues must separate smokers from nonsmoking patrons with the use of a 2-meter-high glass wall. As for offices, businesses employing fewer than 50 workers are obliged to ban smoking on the premises. Companies employing more than 50 people have the right to maintain smoking rooms. Meanwhile, the president of the National Coordinating Committee against Smoking, Panayiotis Behrakis, recommended yesterday that the government not allow any exceptions to the law and ban smoking in all public places. He also suggested that the price of cigarettes, which in Greece is lower in than many other European Union countries, should be increased with the main aim of reducing the number of youngsters who smoke, which is also particularly high in Greece.