No exemptions in smoking ban, minister says

No exemptions in smoking ban, minister says

Three days after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis unveiled his government’s plan to crack down on smoking in public places, inspections were in full swing Thursday as Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis vowed that the law would be enforced “to the letter.” 

Kontozamanis’ comments came amid calls for exceptions to be granted to large nightclubs and other venues.

“We all know that governments in the past did not dare to fully enforce the law,” Kontozamanis told Skai. “Things have changed.” 

Asked whether any concessions could be granted for casinos, betting shops and nightclubs – where opposition to change has been most vehement – Kontozamanis said there would be no exceptions.

“If we start with the loopholes, the law won’t be enforced,” he said. He added that the government’s key aim was not to raise revenue but to protect public health. “It is the state’s duty to protect, to inform, to warn people, and that’s what we’re doing with the full ban on smoking,” he said.

The first few fines have already been imposed.

On Wednesday night, penalties were issued to the owners of three food outlets in the suburb of Nea Smyrni and on patrons that had been smoking there at the time of the inspections.

Meanwhile, a hotline set up for citizens to report violations of the smoking ban in public spaces received hundreds of calls on Wednesday. Out of a total of 347 calls to the Health Ministry’s 1142 hotline, 108 were from citizens asking for information on the law, 87 were reports of alleged violations and 55 were from people asking for help to quit smoking.

In his official announcement on Tuesday, Mitsotakis hailed his government’s action plan against smoking as a “bold initiative for protecting public health” that would “modernize and refine public life.”

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