Traders hazy about smoking ban

A few days before Greece introduces strict regulations to crack down on smoking in public places, in line with European Union law, bar and restaurant owners are reportedly unclear about the implications of the changes on their businesses and will be given a grace period to adapt. «We have made a conscious decision to adapt to these measures gradually as there has been no anti-smoking conscience in Greece for 20 years,» Alexis Zorbas, who is coordinating the Health Ministry’s campaign, told Skai radio. Although the regulations will come into effect on Wednesday, July 1, Zorbas said that bars and restaurants would be granted «a grace period» – the duration of which was not specified – in which to make the necessary changes. According to the new regulations, bars and restaurants larger than 70 square meters must create separate sections for smokers, while owners of establishments smaller than 70 square meters must decide whether to declare the premises exclusively smoking or nonsmoking. Zorbas called on the owners of bars, restaurants and nightclubs to visit their municipal authorities in order to receive the special stickers that will determine whether they are nonsmoking establishments or premises with special zones for smokers. Meanwhile, the head of the national union representing restaurateurs and nightclub owners, Yiannis Tsakos, told Skai that the repercussions of the new regulations on different kinds of establishments was not totally clear and called on the Health Ministry to make an eleventh-hour exception for these traders. According to Tsakos, it is unclear whether the proposed changes would constitute a violation of traders’ operating licenses. He also expressed fears that the glass «wall» that nightclubs are expected to set up to segregate smokers from nonsmoking patrons could be a safety risk. Tsakos called on the ministry to exempt nightclubs from the regulations, expressing fears that the fines would cripple a struggling sector. «We already have seen a 30 percent drop in turnover and this may drop to 50 percent in the winter due to the ban,» Tsakos said, warning of job losses.