NEWS

Total ban on smoking mooted

The possibility of smoking being banned in all public places is an option being seriously considered by the Health Ministry, sources said yesterday, as officials held talks with workers’ unions with a view to overhauling the current ban, which is generally accepted to have been a flop. The scientists on the steering committee that is examining Greece’s smoking laws yesterday advised the government to impose a blanket ban in place of the current regulations, which offer various loopholes and have proved too complicated for many business owners to understand or implement. «A new law was passed seven months ago but it had many problems,» said Health Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou. «This has been made clear to us during meetings with workers’ representatives. The problems have to do with contradictions and the lack of thought that has gone into the regulations.» According to the law, which came into effect on July 1 last year, premises smaller than 70 square meters have to be either exclusively smoking or nonsmoking. Those that decide to allow smoking must have their operating licenses revised and have adequate air-conditioning. Larger establishments must restrict smoking to a separate section of their premises, exceeding no more than 30 percent of the total area. Businesses employing fewer than 50 workers are obliged to ban smoking on the premises. According to sources, owners of nightclubs, restaurants and cafes have agreed to a complete smoking ban but they want the current restrictions lifted and a new law to come into force from next year. They are also demanding that any penalties for illegally smoking on their premises be imposed on the customers who are flouting the law and not on the businesses. «In the days to come, based on the information we have gathered, we will present a comprehensive policy on this issue,» said the health minister.