NEWS

Smoking ban hotline besieged

A telephone hotline offering information to the public about a new ban prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places has been besieged by more than 10,000 calls in the first two days of its operation. According to the Hellenic Center for Infectious Diseases Control (KEEL), a total of 10,418 calls were made to the four-digit phone line, 1142, on Wednesday and Thursday. The same phone line received 9,234 telephone queries in the entire month of August, KEEL said. Of the 10,418 calls, most were queries. Only 60 were complaints about alleged violations of the ban. Opponents of the new law are not backing down. Dimitris Arvanitis, a spokesman for a committee representing business owners who object to the smoking law, said the ban heralded «total disaster.» Arvanitis said business was already slow following the introduction of austerity measures and would slump by as much as 90 percent with the ban. «Last year, all the cafes and bars that implemented [former Health Minister Dimitris] Avramopoulos’s law saw their premises empty out,» Arvanitis said, referring to more flexible restrictions introduced as a precursor to this year’s blanket ban. Arvanitis also cited the findings of a recent study by polling firm MRB, according to which one in three smokers say they will stop going out as much as before because of the ban. According to the same survey, eight out of 10 Greeks prefer the idea of segregating smokers from nonsmokers in cafes and restaurants. Asked what would make them kick the habit, 81 percent of respondents said health concerns, 32 percent cited the rising cost of tobacco, while only 4.7 percent said the smoking ban.