Anti-smoking ban is to be extended into the private sector

Four hours in a nightclub are equal to four days in spent in Athens’s Larissa railway station in terms of the amount of smoke one inhales. This is according to a study on exposure to passive smoking conducted by the Hellenic Anti-Cancer Society by placing special nicotine-measuring filters in hospitals, railway stations, educational institutes, public service offices, nightclubs, and airports. The initial results of the study, being conducted concurrently in other European countries, shows that Greece, Austria and France have much higher levels of nicotine in their public places than do Italy, Spain and Sweden. During yesterday’s press conference ahead of World Anti-Smoking Day tomorrow, experts stressed the need for separate non-smoking areas in the workplace and public areas. With this in mind, the Health Ministry is to extend existing anti-smoking measures into the private sector, with the consensus of employers and staff. Indeed, an agreement to implement this initiative was signed yesterday by senior officials of the Health Ministry, the General Confederation of Greek Workers, and the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. Sources say the new measures will be implemented gradually from the beginning of next year. Meanwhile over the next few days, state officials are to start inspections to verify that existing anti-smoking measures are being implemented in health centers, on public transport, in public services, in educational institutes, and in businesses where hygiene is paramount. Health Minister Costas Stefanis said the time given for the implementation of these measures had been ample, noting however that «there will be no Rambo-style characters bursting into places to catch violators, but the existence of a state crackdown will be evident.» Penalties for violators will range from financial penalties starting at 150 euros to possible jail sentences of three to six months. Further, the Health Ministry is pushing for legislative reforms which would ban outdoor advertising of tobacco products. «The Olympic Games will be conducted in the absence of any outdoor promotion of tobacco products,» Deputy Health Minister Ektoras Nasiokas said yesterday. The aim of this year’s World No Tobacco Day is to stop the promotion of smoking in the movies. «Film actors don’t have to find the cure for cancer but they can stop the propagation of the habit of smoking.» Every year 4 million people across the world die of smoking-related diseases, while the death toll is expected to reach 10 million by 2030. One in seven children start smoking before they reach 15, one third of whom will die as a result. In Greece, between 5,000 and 6,000 people die of lung cancer every year, while 7 percent of all Greek adults suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Finally, according to a study by the Hellenic Cardiological Society, 45 percent of men and 37 percent of women who are non-smokers inhale the smoke of others.

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