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Greece attempts indoor smoking ban

Reuters / June 24, 2009
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ATHENS - Greece, Europe’s heaviest smoking nation, will try to kick the habit by banning tobacco in indoor public places beginning July 1, but many doubt the ban will work.

Greece breaks all European records with more than 40 percent of the population smoking and six out of 10 being exposed to smoking at work, according to a European Union poll.

“We can’t take it anymore. Where I work there are so many smokers,’’ said Elisavet Vasileiadou, 55, a shoe-store employee in central Athens. “I hope the ban will be implemented for the sake of our health, but I think it will be difficult. It’s not easy to tame Greeks, they’ll find a way out.’’

Greece has tried to ban smoking in hospitals and offices and requires restaurant and bar owners to designate smoking areas, but the measures have so far been widely ignored.

Smoking-related diseases kill about 20,000 people a year in Greece, costing the country $2.97 billion a year, the Health Ministry said.

The new law will ban smoking indoors in all public or private areas used for working purposes, including airports, taxis, and buses. Some restaurants and bars will be able to choose whether their business is smoking or nonsmoking; others can set up ventilated smoking areas.

Bar and restaurant owners, as well as the private sector’s umbrella labor union, say the law will harm business.