Bill aims to curb youth smoking

A Health Ministry bill, to be submitted in Parliament soon, aims to ban the sale of tobacco to minors but does not plan the creation of the «smoke-free» bars and restaurants that have become the norm elsewhere in the European Union. The draft legislation foresees heavy fines for the sale of tobacco products to minors as well as the strict enforcement of smoking restrictions in closed public spaces, introduced five years ago but barely observed. State inspectors will be dispatched to conduct spot checks and fine offenders, the ministry’s general secretary, Aristides Kalogeropoulos, told Kathimerini yesterday. A strict approach might be the only way to get Greeks, nearly half of whom smoke, to observe existing restrictions, according to Stavros Besbeas, the president of the Hellenic Cancer Institute. «We should ask ourselves why Greeks respect laws abroad but disregard them at home… I believe this is because the laws are more strictly enforced, inspections are more frequent and fines higher,» Besbeas said. However good legislators’ intentions are, they will come to nothing without enforcement, he added. He also stressed the importance of running awareness campaigns for teachers and parents to ensure they do not set «a bad example» to children. Athens University lung disease expert Haralambos Roussos also emphasized the role of schools in teaching children the risks linked to smoking. He also called for restrictions to the promotion of tobacco products on television and on billboards. Panteion University professor Vasso Artinopoulou struck a more diplomatic note, saying that smoking should be banned in hospitals and public services but that restaurants and cafes should have sections for both smokers and non-smokers.