Greece, a nation of heavy smokers, is to ban smoking in all indoor public places from 1 September because a partial ban enacted last July failed, the health minister, Marilisa Xenogiannakopoulou, said today. Last year’s ban was largely ignored because of exemptions for small bars and restaurants, complex rules and the failure to crack down on offenders, and Greeks routinely light up cigarettes in taxis, larger bars, or even at work.
“There were problems in the implementation of the law, there were grey areas and contradictions,” the minister said.
“We had to bring in new legislation … From 1 September 2010, Greece will fully ban [smoking] in all public places.”
Casinos and bars bigger than 300 sq m will be given eight months to apply the law, she said.
More than 40% of Greeks smoke, making them the heaviest smokers in Europe, and nearly as many are exposed to smoking at work, according to a European Union poll.
Smoking-related diseases kill about 20,000 people a year, costing the country an annual €2.14bn (£1.8bn), the health ministry said last year.
Bar and restaurant owners had complained last year’s law was too complicated and was hurting business.
Some restaurant owners who had originally implemented the law put ashtrays back on the table after losing customers.
The government will publish a draft bill in the coming days, Xenogiannakopoulou said.
Last year’s ban, agreed under the previous, conservative administration, imposed fines of up to €500 on smokers who broke the law, while bars and restaurants risked losing their licence.
Smoking is also becoming more expensive in Greece.
The government agreed in talks with the EU and the IMF earlier this month to increase excise tax on cigarettes by 10% as part of austerity measures aimed at plugging the huge budget deficit.