Greek Minister Blows Smoke in EU Health Minister’s Face

Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Stelios Misinas, FILE)

ATHENS – He lights wherever and whenever he wants, even where it’s allegedly banned, so Greece’s Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis had a simple message for EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis’ complaint about him: butt out.

Polakis, who disregards Greece’s No Smoking laws, and even smoked during an anti-tobacco news conference at the Health Ministry, was pictured in a video with a cigarette while dancing at a nightclub – where smoking isn’t allowed.

That upset Andriukaitis, who had said he was shocked while in the Health Ministry for a World Cancer Day visit, to find the halls reeked of smoke, saying it was “shameful,” although common in Greece where people smoke almost anywhere they want, including in hospitals, schools, post offices, taverns, bars, night clubs, and public buildings.

Polakis, who is also a surgeon, said he was dealing with more pressing issues at the ministry than smoking, said Kathimerini. “Learn before you speak,” Polakis wrote on his Facebook account in a post addressed to Andriukaitis. “I’ll decide when to stop smoking, on my terms,” Polakis said, disregarding death statistics from smoking.

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Posted by Παυλος Πολακης on Saturday, February 2, 2019

Greece has the highest smoking rate in the European Union and has issued five No Smoking bans over the last decade, all of them ignored because there are almost no inspections or enforcements or real penalties.

The EU official, who was questioned by a daily newspaper frequently critical of the outspoken minister, also complained the Health Ministry smelt of cigarettes and that nobody wore ties, a badge of honor for the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, including Tsipras, and with Polakis frequently shown looking like an unmade bed.

“That’s a lie … the security guard at the entrance wore one. I don’t. It’s the suits which passed through here who bankrupted our country,” Polakis said in a shot at the country’s lenders to whom Tsipras and Polakis’ party surrendered to get an 86-billion euro ($97.57 billion) third bailout, reneging on anti-austerity promises.

Polakis has developed a reputation as shooting from his hip and speaking out on everything from foreign policy to the economy and his open breaking of the no smoking laws hasn’t drawn a reprimand from Tsipras nor orders to stop doing it in the ministry.

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