OPINION

Kicking the habit

The government’s attempt to introduce a cluster of no-smoking regulations in public spaces is, as of today, entering a new phase. In October, the main pressure will be placed on hospitals and other healthcare facilities – an area where all strictness is justified. In November, government efforts will center on public services, schools and universities, while December will see the introduction of bans in the crucial sector of restaurants, bakeries and so on. The introduction of no-smoking regulations will, no doubt, be followed by a long period of adjustment which is expected to exceed the aforementioned three-month period. Furthermore, the rules will most likely trigger a debate about their implementation in private sector workplaces. The typical disobedience of the Greeks is not going to make things any easier, of course. On the other hand, the absence of any anti-smoking frenzy, which was to be seen in the USA and in some other European countries, will help ease the pressure so that the issue does not turn into the subject of head-on collision between hardliners on both sides, a development that would dash any hopes for a compromise solution. No one questions the fact that smoking is a habit that damages the health not only of smokers – who anyway have to pay the price for their passion – but also of those who happen to be, or work near them. There is no reason, however, for some people to have to tolerate other people’s bad habits. However, it is also difficult to instantly dispose of a century-old social habit, harmful as this may be to public health. The crackdown will take time and effort and, above all, a painstaking approach from the State. The process of adjustment will not be based on police crackdowns, except perhaps in the early stages. The driving force will be the social momentum that emerges as lawful citizens rush to bring any wrongdoers back to order. This practice has become standard on public transportation, such as buses and airplanes, with a satisfactory outcome. Without excessiveness or haste but simultaneously without oscillation, the government has to promote measures that will gradually protect the health of citizens from the unhealthy habit of smoking.