Smoking drivers to face penalties

Motorists who smoke in their cars in the presence of children aged 12 and younger face large fines or the possible revocation of their licenses, according to a draft law due to be submitted in Parliament this week. The legislation, being drafted by the Health Ministry, aims to punish motorists for exposing children of preschool or primary school ages to the risks of passive smoking. It does not appear that the same penalties will apply to motorists smoking in the presence of older children. Meanwhile, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos expressed concern at the problematic enforcement of a blanket ban on smoking in indoor public spaces that came into effect last month. The ban applied as of September 1, though smokers and owners of bars and cafes were given a month’s grace period to comply. Last Friday, the transition period expired, meaning that cafe and bar owners who permit smoking on their premises face fines of up to 10,000 euros. Customers who ignore the ban will be fined between 50 and 100 euros. According to Loverdos, a visit by ministry inspectors to 20 bars and cafes in Athens revealed that only three of these had been enforcing the new law. In the other 17, at least one patron was found to be smoking. The situation is better in restaurants, where very few instances of smoking have been observed, while hospitals and universities appear to be enforcing the new ban effectively. Checks by municipal police in Thessaloniki revealed that 40 percent of establishments are not enforcing the smoking ban, it emerged. Inspections carried out between October 1 and 3 on 48 bars and restaurants led to 20 violations being registered by police.

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