A top Greek court has decided that electronic cigarettes should have the same legal restrictions as traditional smoking does when it comes to bans in public places and advertising.
In its ruling, the Council of State, Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court, rejected an appeal launched by the Electronic Cigarette Businesses Association, stating that the same restrictions and prohibitions that apply to regular cigarettes should also include electronic cigarettes.
Greece has imposed restrictions and prohibitions on the advertising, sale and use of regular cigarettes and tobacco products (ban on smoking in public places, transport etc.) and has also introduced sanctions against offenders.
The e-cigarettes association said that the ban on e-cigarettes in public places and advertising was having an adverse economic impact. It also said the constitutionally protected economic freedom of those operating in the electronic cigarette market and the constitutional principles of equality and proportionality have been breached.
The association also referred to scientific evidence and research, saying that no hazard to human health from electronic cigarettes has been positively identified, unlike in the regular cigarette.
Although Greece has put a strict anti-smoking legislation in place, the ban is not effective in practice and this has been criticised by citizens, public health NGOs and EU officials.
According to a recent survey, Greeks believe that the failure to enforce the smoking ban in public places is a “cultural degradation”.
The Council Recommendation on smoke-free environments (November 2009) called on member states to adopt and implement laws to fully protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport, within three years of its adoption.
But some member states are still lagging behind on the issue. Among the EU countries with a low level of enforcement and compliance are Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia.
In an interview with EURACTIV, Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis also said the existence of anti-smoking legislation is of little value if it’s not properly implemented.