NEWS

Anti-smoking drive

The average Greek taxi driver will soon have to find an alternative use for his left hand, which normally dangles out of the window attached to a cigarette. According to a series of measures announced by the government yesterday, a strict smoking ban will be enforced in taxis, and all indoor public areas. Furthermore, from the beginning of October, all restaurants and most coffee shops must designate at least half their tables as non-smoking areas, while as of January 1, 2003 all tobacco advertising will be banned from outdoor areas and cinemas. «The situation has got out of control,» Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos – a smoker himself – told a press conference ahead of today’s United Nations World No Tobacco Day. «Greece has fallen behind in implementing an effective anti-smoking policy. Restrictions aimed to protect non-smokers are either very few or non-existent.» Many of the measures he announced yesterday already exist, in theory. Smoking is not allowed on public transport – a rule which, with the exception of taxis, is religiously observed – hospitals, health centers, clinics, chemists, assembly halls and work areas. But the ban is openly flaunted in many cases. Papadopoulos said yesterday it would be extended to bus and railway stations as well as airports, where special smoking areas will be provided. As to coffee shops – including pastry shops that usually fulfill the same function – and restaurants, owners will have to create separate areas for non-smokers accounting for 50 percent of available space. This will not apply to coffee-shops designated as «traditional,» as well as bars and nightclubs. Schools will also become non-smoking areas, with a smoking-room reserved in each for smoking teachers. At the same time, indirect tobacco advertising on television will become illegal – direct advertising has already been banned – while from the beginning of next year, tobacco adverts will not be allowed outdoors. This includes billboards and adverts on kiosks, while no tobacco adverts will be shown in cinemas. «If all smokers give up, cancer cases will fall by 30 percent,» Papadopoulos claimed. According to European Union figures published this week, Greeks are the heaviest smokers in the Union, with 44.9 percent of the population listed as regular smokers.