Complaining of no air to breathe while lighting up next cigarette

This summer the country has faced a crisis with deadly forest fires and heat waves. According to a recent poll, the majority of Athenians are dissatisfied with air quality in the city, blaming pollution and the lack of green spaces. Of course, they are quite right on these points, but there is another issue which links the forest fires and poor air quality that is much closer to home and much more difficult to blame on others. How can we complain we have no air to breathe while lighting up our next cigarette? Greeks are the EU’s heaviest smokers: 42 percent of adults smoke here compared to an EU average of 32 percent. Passive smoking is not an issue taken seriously, despite irrefutable scientific data, and smoking is still common in the workplace and public buildings. In cafes and restaurants, smokers casually allow their smoke to drift over pregnant women and children without a thought for their welfare. It seems that in this country no one has the right not to inhale cigarette smoke. The smoker’s right to pollute the atmosphere is paramount – to the cost of all. A study by the Virginia Department of Forestry found that 14 percent of forest fires were caused by discarded cigarette butts. In a country with a higher percentage of smokers, this figure is likely to be higher. So again, the cigarette steals the clean air from our lungs. Throughout the EU, smoking in public places is becoming illegal. Smoking rates are dropping, improving public health. For too long, Greeks have counted on the high life expectancies enjoyed by their grandparents. But remember, grandma didn’t live on cigarettes, frappes and croissants. If this trend continues, life expectancy in Greece is going to drop, while those countries that employ a more proactive approach to public health will enjoy the years we will not. MIMI BOOTH, Rafina