Smoking controls come into effect

Cafes and restaurants yesterday scrambled to prepare for the introduction of European Union-dictated smoking restrictions as the Health Ministry issued the official decision explaining their obligations at the eleventh hour. The ministry circulated the text of the decision to all municipal and prefectural authorities which have been deluged with queries from owners of bars and nightspots unclear about the changes they need to make to their premises. Ministry officials also announced the creation of a team of inspectors whose responsibility it will be to patrol bars and restaurants and determine whether the new smoking restrictions are being adhered to or not. According to the ministerial decision, premises smaller than 70 square meters will henceforth be either exclusively smoking or nonsmoking. Those which decide to allow smoking must have their operating licenses revised, have adequate air-conditioning units installed and display a special sticker determining their status. Larger establishments must restrict smoking to a separate section of their premises, exceeding not more than 30 percent of the surface area. Live music venues must separate smokers from nonsmoking patrons with the use of a 2-meter glass wall. As for offices, businesses employing fewer than 50 workers will be obliged to ban smoking on their premises. Companies employing more than 50 people will have the right to maintain smoking rooms. Meanwhile in Brussels, European Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou proposed an outright ban on smoking in closed public spaces for all EU member states by 2012. Vassiliou, a Cypriot, welcomed partial bans but said they were «far from ideal» as they do not provide adequate protection from passive smoking.

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