Anti-smoking campaign begins

Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday launched a six-month campaign to promote the enforcement of severe restrictions on smoking in public places from July 1, as a new study showed that six in 10 Greek smokers back the planned measures. «With the drafting of a national action plan against smoking, our country has acquired a targeted and strategic policy for the promotion and safeguarding of public health,» Avramopoulos told a conference. The minister stressed that the new restrictions would be enforced strictly but also appealed to citizens to contribute to efforts aimed at bringing Greece into line with European Union standards on curbing the risks posed by passive smoking. He noted that 20,000 Greeks die of smoking-related diseases every year, adding that the habit costs the National Health System 2.14 billion euros annually. The law, scheduled to come into effect on July 1, dictates that all offices and other public places, including bars and restaurants, must set aside designated areas for smokers. Restrictions on smoking have been adopted in many offices already. The bill also aims to keep minors from smoking, and from consuming alcohol, by banning their access to bars and clubs and imposing large fines on the managers of establishments that fail to respect these restrictions. The country’s bars and restaurants will be the hardest hit by the measures. Those whose premises are smaller than 70 square meters will have to choose whether to be characterized as exclusively smoking or nonsmoking establishments. According to a new study carried out by Kapa Research on behalf of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, 62 percent of Greek smokers welcome the planned measures, with one in 10 saying the initiative provides them with an incentive to kick the habit and four in 10 saying they plan to cut down. The study also suggests that the law will have an impact on the business of bars and restaurants as a third (34 percent) of smokers say they will visit them less often because of the new measures. Exactly the same proportion of nonsmokers questioned said they would visit bars and restaurants more often thanks to the smoking restrictions.

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