Ban on smoking followed by fines

Cafe and bar owners who fail to comply with the smoking ban that went into effect on September 1 face fines of up to 10,000 euros as of yesterday after the one-month transition period they had been granted expired. Anyone owning an establishment that does not comply with the ban on smoking in enclosed spaces will be handed an initial fine of 500 euros that will then rise to 10,000 euros and could lead to them losing their license if they repeat the offense. Customers who ignore the ban will be fined between 50 and 100 euros. Restaurateurs and bar owners fear that the imposition of the ban, which was not heavily enforced during its first month, will damage their business. «This will be a total catastrophe for us,» said Dimitris Arvanitis, who heads a committee of cafe-bar and restaurant owners opposing the law. «The downturn in business at our stores will be dramatic.» Municipal police will lead the effort to ensure the law is being adhered to but Kathimerini understands that some local authorities have not yet received the booklets that officers are supposed to use to issue fines. There is also doubt about how strictly municipalities will want to apply the law, given that local elections are due in just over a month. «It seems like a Herculean task [to impose the law] in a country where half its citizens smoke but we will get there,» said the Public Health General Secretary Antonis Dimopoulos. Despite the difficulties in enforcing the law, it seems that since it was passed there has been a substantial rise in the number of people thinking about quitting smoking. The 1142 helpline, which began operating on September 1, has received some 120,000 calls. Only 1,300 of those were calls to report people breaking the law.

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