NEWS

Premier to get anti-smoking award

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday announced that Prime Minister George Papandreou is to receive a World No Tobacco Day Award for his steadfast anti-smoking stance and the adoption of tough anti-smoking legislation in Greece.

The decision comes just a few weeks after Health Minister Andreas Loverdos admitted that the enforcement of a blanket ban on smoking in public places introduced last September was not working.

Thursday?s announcement was made in Moscow during the WHO?s first global health ministers? conference on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) for which tobacco use is regarded as a major risk factor.

The award was given to Papandreou, officials said, for the ?political courage? he displayed in passing a potentially unpopular measure at a time when his administration was also pursuing a strict austerity drive.

The award is expected to be presented when the WHO officially opens its first special bureau in Southeastern Europe for NCD in Athens on June 3.

Meanwhile, in sharp contrast to the praise for Papandreou?s anti-smoking stance, the ban is being flagrantly flouted across Greece.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO), which has been running a telephone hotline to inform citizens about the ban, said it had received 22,500 complaints about alleged transgressions of the ban since September 1 when it was introduced.

Of the 22,500 complaints, 19,400 related to alleged violations in cafes, bars and restaurants. Another 1,600 complaints concern smoking transgressions in public sector offices while more than 280 alleged offenses in hospitals and a similar amount in schools have been reported.

The ministry?s general secretary, Antonis Dimopoulos, told Kathimerini on Thursday that state inspectors were planning a crackdown on offenses over the coming weeks.