Anti-smoking laws not novel in Greece

Greece, whose citizens are among the biggest consumers of tobacco products in the world, was actually one of the first countries to establish anti-smoking laws. Today four in 10 Greeks are regular smokers. But 150 years ago, a royal decree was signed banning smoking in enclosed public spaces – not out of any early understanding of the risks to public health but because of the risk of fire, according to Stefanos Geroulanos, head of the Onassis Cardiology Center’s intensive care unit. The decree, signed by Queen Amalia on July 31, 1856, banned the smoking of cigars or pipes by all employees of the state within public buildings. The ban also applied to any other person entering these premises. Since 1856, a number of similar anti-smoking laws, decrees and rulings have been issued – the most recent a ministerial decree in 2002 – but a total ban in Greece is only imposed on public transport. Smoking bans have also been imposed on passenger flights and that’s because of the high cost of changing air filters. Geroulanos, who is also professor of surgery at Zurich University, said the ban is not even fully imposed in hospitals, since doctors themselves still smoke in their offices. «In Greece we have anti-smoking laws but most of them are not observed since they are not policed,» he said. «The state is not only in no position to impose the ban, but we could even say it is unwilling, since it stands to lose enormous revenue from taxation on tobacco products, and so many people’s livelihoods depend on the tobacco industry.»

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