Greeks stay cool over smoking ban
Guest Post: March 2013
Greeks stay cool over smoking ban as new regulations go unheeded and locals continue to puff away.
A smoking ban in Greece always seemed a non-starter as anyone enjoying a holiday meal in a Greek taverna will testify.
Now, after five no-smoking laws passed over the last 10 years Greek government the vowed yet another crackdown and pledged to introduce stricter checks in public places.
Previous bans have always been largely ignored by Greeks, who light up more than any other country in Europe and have an unhealthy disregard for 'nanny state' directives from Europe or anywhere else.
But the Greek health ministry says it intends to get tough and has issued a circular calling for tighter checks at schools, hospitals, restaurants, bars and other public places.
Inspectors have been told to implement smoking bans in all public places, a law first introduced in 2010 and promptly ignored almost everywhere by almost everyone.
The new wave of inspections is expected to meet with strong opposition at these times of austerity when cafe and restaurant owners are struggling to fill their tables.
Greek island taverna owners argue that the smoking ban will further hit their already beleaguered businesses currently struggling to weather the current financial crisis.
The argument is not a new one, it is wheeled out every time the Greek government tries to impose the no smoking laws that now exist widely across the rest of Europe.
It was only in November last year that the Panhellenic Federation of Restaurants filed an appeal against a no-smoking law on the grounds that a ban breached Greek law and the Constitution.
They lost of course but, in any event, no smoking laws look set to continue to be totally ignored and Greek island holiday visitors will find little support if they complain.
Go into any restaurant, club, taverna or other public place and cigarette smoke is the norm. Greeks even smoke in schools and hospitals, in fact pretty much wherever and whenever they want.
Police, bus drivers, post office workers — even doctors — will light up without being checked or fined. It is so bad that even the members of parliament who passed the smoke ban laws will openly smoke in government and council buildings.
The latest circular gives no indication of the lengths that inspectors may go to implement the new rules and no word on what fines may be imposed so, non-one on a Greek islands holiday this year should hold their breath, unless it is to escape passive smoking.