Strict smoking bans sought

Extending a ban on smoking to all public places, including public transport, shopping malls and beaches is the only way to wean Greeks off their dangerous addiction, doctors said ahead of today’s World No-Tobacco Day. According to a list of 10 «rules against smoking» proposed by the Hellenic Cardiological Society at a press conference yesterday, smoking should be banned on all forms of public transport, including buses, trains and taxis, in shopping malls, on beaches and in private firms. «In the event of transgressions, fines should be imposed, not on the smokers, but on those responsible for keeping the area smoke-free,» said the society’s president, Dimitris Kremastinos. The same rule would apply on public transport and in taxis, where the driver would be fined in the event of a violation, Kremastinos said. The society has also objected to the «live promotion of smoking on television» and has called for fines to be imposed on channels that allow their guests to smoke during programs. The doctors also called for lessons on the negative consequences of smoking to be incorporated into school curricula. It is hoped that such lessons would discourage Greek youngsters from taking up the habit. Currently, around one in four (24 percent) of Greek adolescents are regular smokers. However this figure is down from 31.6 percent of smoking teenagers in 1984. According to psychiatry professor Constantinos Stefanis, a former health minister, the key reason for this drop is that today’s youth is better informed. «But information is not enough. There is also a need for measures to be taken, regardless of the political cost,» he said. Greece has the largest percentage of smokers in the EU – some 42 percent of the population, compared to an EU average of 32 percent, according to the results of a Eurobarometer survey made public last week. This figure has been attributed to the rise in the number of women smoking – up to 34.4 percent in 2004 as compared to 21 percent in 1984. Around 20,000 Greeks die of smoking-related diseases every year.