Mitsotakis pledges to finally implement smoking ban in Greece

Successive governments have pledged to implement a 2008 anti-smoking law but in practice, they never did so. [Shutterstock]

The newly-elected centre-right government (New Democracy-EPP) in Greece has vowed to implement a smoking ban law in enclosed public places, which has existed since 2008 but never took effect.

Greece is one of the few EU member states, where smoking in enclosed public places is banned but in practice, it’s allowed.

According to a World Health Organisation report, Greece’s compliance with the framework of the smoke-free environment is quite poor. A law adopted in 2008 that prohibited smoking in public places has never been implemented.

In addition, according to Eurostat, together with Bulgaria, Greece tops the list of smoking rates across the EU. Austria is one of the last EU members where the smoking ban has not been fully enforced and smoking is still allowed in bars and restaurants. A planned full ban was overturned by Sebastian Kurz’s government but may be reinstated in November.

Successive Greek governments have pledged to implement the 2008 anti-smoking law but never put it in practice.

For this, Athens has been strongly criticised by the European Commission. “From our perspective, there is little value in having laws if they are not enforced,” EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis told in 2017.

The issue was also raised last year, when during a speech in Athens, Andriukaitis showed a picture of Greece’s then vice-minister for health, Pavlos Polakis from leftist Syriza party, smoking in a public space. “It’s a shame,” Anriukaitis said, adding that the Greek parliament should urgently address the issue.

“It is not a matter of free will if someone smokes or not. When this happens in a public area, it is a violation of human rights,” Andriukaitis added.

Greek media reported that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is determined to put an end to this practice and finally implement the ban in hospitals, educational institutions, sports facilities, restaurants, cafes and clubs.

The government is also planning to increase on-the-spot controls while in the next six months, citizens will be able to report violations of the law by telephone.

Numerous activist movements have called on the Greek government to stop turning a blind eye to passive smoking and implement the law.

Greek citizens believe that the non-implementation of the law is “cultural degradation”, several surveys have suggested in the past.

Commission urges Greece to implement smoking ban in public places

The number of smokers in Greece has decreased the last five years, however, the non-implementation of a smoking ban law in enclosed public places has irritated the population, which calls it “cultural degradation”.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

In 2002, a new law prohibiting smoking in public and private workplaces, in transport, in hospitals and other healthcare facilities as educational institutions was enacted.

However, the legislation was of little consequence, as exceptions were repeatedly granted to workplaces to allow continued smoking.

A new law was then adopted in 2008 that prohibited smoking (and consumption of tobacco products in other ways) in all workplaces (including private), taxis and ferries as well as in all enclosed public places (including bars and restaurants).

But since then, nothing has changed, despite the fact that a majority of smokers (62%) find the smoking ban positive.

A vast majority of bars and restaurants owners are not abiding by the law. According to the legislation, in clubs or bars of over 300 square metres, the smoking area can be 40% of the total area of the premises. The separation from the rest of the establishment must be carried by partitions at least two metres.

But owners have not taken such measures and the Greek authorities remain silent.

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