Ban on young smokers

Greece intends to ban youngsters under the age of 18 from buying cigarettes or alcohol in a change of law that will also provide social security coverage for women who want to have in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, it was revealed yesterday. The changes were announced by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who plans to submit a series of amendments over the next two weeks. Under the new law, shops or kiosks selling cigarettes and alcohol will have to display signs which inform customers that under-18s cannot buy these products. Storeowners will also be required to ask youngsters to show their identification card to prove their age. «In this way, we are putting an end to the anarchy and are striking out at the unacceptable profiteering taking place at the expense of our children,» said Avramopoulos. Smokers in Greece are bucking a European trend by increasing in number, according to figures released last year by the National Statistics Service (NSS). Almost 42 percent of Greeks over 14 years old smoke and nearly 15 percent of children under the age of 18 are regular smokers. Avramopoulos unveiled the ban as part of 20 measures that will be taken to improve children’s rights. Other law changes will result in the creation of a national register for child health services and an increase in the age limit for youngsters who can be treated at pediatric hospitals. Currently, only children aged 14 or younger can be treated at children’s clinics but this will be raised to 18 years of age when the amendments are tabled later this month. The new law will also allow women over 30 who need fertility treatments to conceive to have the medical care covered by their social security fund, regardless of how many times they attempt to have a baby. It is estimated that one in five Greek couples has to use IVF treatments, which cost up to -5,500 each time. Until now, funds only covered the cost of up to three attempts to conceive by this method.