No mercy in smoking sweep

A circular sent out by the Health Ministry calls on state inspection agencies to show no mercy in implementing a smoking ban that has been only sporadically enforced since its introduction last September. «There must be no letup in the enforcement of measures banning smoking in public places,» said the circular, which was sent out late on Wednesday. The document, signed by the ministry’s general secretary Antonis Dimopoulos, calls on state inspectors to make every possible effort to enforce the legislation and describes the imposition of fines on offenders as «a necessary measure…which must be imposed on those who consciously fail to comply with the new regulations even through they have been informed of their responsibilities.» The circular also reminds inspectors – who are to be subjected to checks themselves – that they will be expected to submit weekly reports with details of all inspections and violations. Meanwhile, dozens of bars, cafes and restaurants in Kozani stayed closed yesterday in a 24-hour protest against the smoking crackdown, timed to coincide with a visit to the northern city by Prime Minister George Papandreou. Similar action is expected in other cities over the next few days as the federation representing the owners of bars, cafes and restaurants – known by its acronym POESE – has threatened to stage rolling 24-hour strikes. Speaking to Kathimerini, POESE’s general secretary, Giorgos Kavathas, said authorities have intensified checks on the enforcement of the smoking ban over the past few days and have imposed several fines. Kavathas said the federation’s members aimed to appeal to administrative courts against the fines.