Smoking ban to start in 2010

Greeks, among the heaviest smokers in the world, have just over a year to go before a blanket ban outlaws their favorite bad habit in all public places, including restaurants, bars and offices, the Health Ministry revealed yesterday. The ministry bill submitted in Parliament yesterday foresees the adoption of European Union guidelines designed to protect people from passive smoking as of January 1, 2010. Practically, this means that smoking will be banned in public places, including all bars and restaurants, offices, hospitals and on all forms of public transport. The restrictions will also apply in all outlets that produce and sell food. In offices – and in certain other public spaces – there will be designated areas set aside for smokers, according to the bill. Restrictions on smoking have been adopted in many offices already following protests by non-smokers worried about the impact on their health of passive smoking. Additionally the bill aims to keep minors from smoking, and the consumption of alcohol, by banning their access to bars and clubs and imposing large fines on the managers of establishments that fail to respect these restrictions. According to the bill, the managers or owners of bars or nightclubs found to have granted access to minors face fines of 1,000 euros. Repeat offenders will face fines of up to 20,000 euros and the possible revocation of their licenses. Another provision of the bill foresees the same fines for those caught selling cigarettes to minors. It is unclear whether this provision will also apply to the sale of tobacco from other outlets such as street kiosks and convenience stores. It is unclear what kind of reception the ministry’s initiative will provoke. According to a recent survey, eight in 10 Greeks believe that banning the practice from all public places is not an infringement on personal rights. However, Greece is one of the few EU countries where smoking is still permitted in virtually all public places.