Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hailed the Health Ministry’s National Action Plan Against Smoking as a “bold initiative for protecting public health,” at its presentation in Athens on Tuesday.
“The enemy is tobacco smoke, not smokers,” Mitsotakis said, pointing out that other countries have succeeded in banning smoking in public spaces and Greece can do the same by enforcing much-flouted legislation that was originally introduced in 2009.
“Eleven acts of legislation, presidential decrees and ministerial decisions in 10 years, with zero results: This is the sad account of the indoor smoking ban, supposedly enacted in 2009,” Mitsotakis said.
Citing official figures, Mitsotakis said that 94.6 percent of the population is exposed to passive smoking in one way or another as a result of the failure of successive governments to impose the ban. One in six boys and one in eight girls have also been reported as smoking at the age of 15 were smokers, he said.
Smoking is estimated to cause around 20,000 deaths per year, as well as being responsible for 700,000 days of hospital care, at a cost of one billion euros, according to the prime minister.
Presenting the Health Ministry’s new campaign, Mitsotakis said it has four main pillars of action: creating a non-smoking culture that emphasizes prevention; respecting non-smokers; increasing medical support for smokers trying to quit; and evaluating new tobacco products and regulating their circulation on the market.
A four-digit phone line, 1142, has also been set up to report those breaking smoking laws, while inspections will be carried out by mixed teams that include police.
According to Mitsotakis, initial estimates of the recent crackdown on smoking in public showed that compliance with the law is over 70 percent already.
“Just as we learned to wear seatbelts and helmets, we will learn to smoke outside bars and cafes,” he added. [ANA-MPA]