Greece launches anti-smoking campaign ahead of July ban

anti-smoking campaignAthens - Greece, one of Europe's heaviest smoking nations, on Wednesday launched a six month anti-smoking campaign ahead of a ban outlawing smoking in most public places from July 1. The new ban should have a big impact in a nation where nearly 45 per cent of the adult population smokes, and where smoking in offices and cafes is seen as both traditional and acceptable.

"With the drafting of a national action plan against smoking, our country has acquired a targeted and strategic policy for the promotion and safeguarding of public health," said Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.

In fact the ban is only partial. Under the new law, smoking will be banned in public places such as schools, universities, state offices, hospitals and on all forms of public transport.

Private offices, restaurant and bar owners will be required to designate smoking and non-smoking areas to safeguard public health.

The country's restaurants and bars will be the hardest hit by the measures as smaller establishments will have to choose whether to designate themselves as exclusively smoking or non-smoking.

The Health Ministry said the new law is aimed at saving the lives of an estimated 20,000 people who die of smoking-related diseases every year, adding that the habit costs the state more than 2 billion euros a year.

According to a poll in the Greek daily Kathimierini newspaper, 62 per cent of Greek smokers welcomed the planned measures.

The opinion poll also suggested that the law will have an impact on bars and restaurants as a third or 34 per cent of smokers say they will visit them less often because of the new measures.(dpa)