Anti-smoking drive cranked up

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day yesterday, health authorities preparing Greeks for the enforcement of severe restrictions on smoking in public places from July 1 sought to take a national awareness campaign to a new level. The metro station at central Syntagma Square hosted an open seminar informing passers-by on the risks of smoking. Volunteers were on hand to take breath samples from smokers interested in finding out about the state of their lungs. Cancer sufferers were also present for those willing to hear their stories. Meanwhile, there were reports that certain bars in the popular district of Gazi were planning their first «smoke-free» night yesterday. A report published last week by Athens University professor Yannis Tountas showed that 86 percent of staff at the country’s bars and restaurants welcome the imposition of smoking restrictions in public places next month. According to Tountas’s research, one in three nonsmoking bar staff suffer from coughing or shortness of breath due to the smoky conditions in which they work. This situation is expected to improve after June 31, the deadline for bar and restaurant owners to create separate smoking sections. Owners of establishments smaller than 70 square meters must decide whether to declare the premises exclusively smoking or nonsmoking. According to recent figures, around 7,000 Greeks are diagnosed with lung cancer every year. In the overwhelming majority of cases the ailment is a direct consequence of smoking, doctors say. Last month Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos 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.