NEWS

Ministry moves on smoking ban

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Taking the first step in its bid to finally enforce a ban on smoking in public places that was introduced a decade ago, the Health Ministry on Monday sent a circular to regional and inspection authorities, instructing them to intensify checks. 

Apart from regional authorities, the circular was sent to the municipal police, the coast guard and the country’s health and labor inspectorates. 

It asks them to boost their inspections, focusing on public buildings including Parliament, ministries and those used by utilities such as Public Power Corporation as well as all public and private health and educational services, chiefly hospitals and schools. 

Inspectors have also been asked to monitor kindergartens, creches, playgrounds, gymnasiums and sports centers. Next on the list are office blocks, restaurants, bars, clubs, airports and public transport services. Inspections will even extend to private vehicles in the event that children under the age of 12 are passengers. 

Further, the ministry has asked regional authorities and inspection services to submit their own proposals as to how the enforcement of the smoking ban could be more effective. 

Panagiotis Behrakis, the director of the Institute of Public Health of the American College of Greece who is heading a council of experts steering the government’s campaign, said he believes Greek society is ready for a full enforcement of the ban.

In comments to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, he said that the ban is already being enforced in many areas, including department stores, banks, the Athens metro and buses. The highest rates of violation are in public buildings such as Parliament, the ministries, police precincts, courthouses, municipal offices, bars and nightclubs.

The Panhellenic Medical Association also welcomed the drive by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to enforce the ban, describing both active and passive smoking as “a major issue for public health.” One in four deaths in the male population in Greece is attributable, directly or indirectly, to smoking, it said.