Hoping to pour cold water on Greeks’ flaming passion for tobacco, the Health Ministry signed an agreement yesterday with employers and labor unions which aims to drastically curtail smoking in private sector businesses by next March. A ban on smoking in public places, such as schools, private tutoring centers (frontistiria), hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, chemists and buildings housing government or state-funded services as well as at airports, bus and train stations has already been in place since last October. Furthermore, restaurant and cafeteria owners have been obliged, since last December, to equally divide their establishments into smoking and non-smoking – but not necessarily smoke-free – areas. This measure has not been particularly fiercely enforced. Under the agreement signed yesterday by Deputy Health Minister Ektoras Nasiokas, Federation of Greek Industry Chairman Odysseas Kyriakopoulos and Deputy Secretary-General of the General Confederation of Greek Labor Dimitris Politis, the first restrictions on smoking in private sector workplaces will come into effect in the autumn. As of October 1, smoking will not be allowed in areas open to the public, such as businesses’ waiting and reception areas, conference rooms and lecture halls. From March 1, 2004, private sector smokers will only be allowed to indulge their habit in specially designated areas in their workplaces, which will be selected following negotiations between employers and workers’ unions. According to European Union figures for 2002, Greeks were the heaviest smokers in the 15-member Union, with regular smokers accounting for an estimated 44 percent of the population.