Age limit to stop teenagers smoking

The government intends to enforce an age limit on the sale of cigarettes to help reduce the large number of teenagers lighting up, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said yesterday. Tobacco products will be off-limits to children and the ban is to be printed on cigarette packets, according to the minister, in a measure that will be enforced by police and health officials. «The battle against smoking is continual and affects us all,» Avramopoulos said. Greeks rank among the heaviest smokers in the European Union, as smoking bans in hospitals and on public transport have only been introduced and enforced in recent years. Smoking is still widely accepted in the workplace, banks, state services and taxis. «There is no doubt that the absence of a policy for the prevention of smoking broadens the problem in comparison with other countries,» Avramopoulos added, speaking ahead of World No Tobacco Day tomorrow. The ministry is also expected to start a dialogue with different social groups on determining a long-term campaign that can help stop young people from beginning the habit. According to data from the Hellenic Cancer Society, half of children below the age of 14 have already taken their first puff, while by the age of 18, 50 percent of teenagers have become regular smokers. The ministry is also expected to prepare by fall a draft law that is aimed at reducing the number of young people picking up the habit.