NEWS

Smokers and non-smokers engaged in civil rights war

«Please put out your cigarette when entering this website» is the plea of the Anti-Tobacco Society of Greece (ASG). Its motto – also the title of the last information book it published – is «Smoking: A Big Passion, A Big Mistake.» The ASG is a non-profit organization founded in 1991 that boasts 3,000 members and is financed by members’ contributions and sponsorships. «2004 will be the year that we will all put out our cigarettes, so that we can have more champions and athletes and fewer smokers,» says Giorgos Chrysanthopoulos, ASG’s president, who quit smoking after losing a loved one to a smoking-related illness. Chrysanthopoulos is a former smoker who is now trying to help others quit, especially the 25 percent of the society’s members who are smokers. He has also issued requests to television stars not to appear on screen smoking, arguing that they offer a bad role model for children and youngsters. On the flip side of the coin, smokers have launched a campaign to protect their rights. They argue that stringent anti-smoking measures being applied around the world have done little to convince smokers to quit. «We oppose the marginalization of smokers, being treated like second-class citizens, being controlled, the extreme measures of the anti-tobacco campaign. I know that abusing tobacco is harmful, just like any other form of substance abuse, but we don’t need to create propaganda and myths,» says Thalis Koutoupis, head of Smokers Greece. About passive smoking, he says, «Studies have shown that for passive smokers to inhale the quantity of nicotine and tar contained in one cigarette, they would have to be exposed to cigarette smoke for 100 consecutive hours.» As for governments’ policies toward tobacco, he says: «For every cigarette that kills, the State gets up to 90 percent of the price, while the tobacco industry gets just 6 percent. Who then benefits most from people continuing to smoke?» Koutoupis suggests that one quick and effective way to get people to reduce smoking is simply to raise the cost of cigarettes significantly.