Low incomes go up in smoke

Greeks are the heaviest smokers in the European Union, with nearly half the population aged over 15 admitting to the habit, according to EU statistics released yesterday that offer a snapshot of living conditions in the 15 member-states. On the bright side, the annual 2002 Eurostat review showed that Greece has the second-highest rate of home ownership and the highest rate of university attendance among 18 to 24-year-olds (34 percent). But Greece also has the lowest per capita income, the second-lowest minimum salary level – after Portugal – and the highest unemployment among under 25-year olds, while 20 percent of the population is classified as low salary earners and 42 percent of Greeks complain of cramped living conditions. According to the report, 58.1 percent of Greek men aged over 15 and 32.2 percent of women smoke. The overall average for the general population over 15 is 44.9 percent, while the EU average is 33.9 percent – 40.2 percent for men and 28 percent for women. Sweden has the lowest rate of smokers, at 22.1 percent – 19.2 percent of men and 24.9 percent of women.