Ranked 12th among countries worldwide by Tobacco Atlas with the highest smoking rates, the rate is dropping in Greece, but largely because of electronic cigarettes – whose safety and addiction risks are unknown.
A study commissioned by the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens, the National School of Public Health and the universities of Patra and Macedonia showed the e-cigarettes played a big role in cutting the use of tobacco, said Kathimerini.
The study used a sample of 2,568 former and current smokers in Attica and showed that 40 percent of those who have quit the habit since 2014 use or have used electronic cigarettes.
“Once again, the assessment of scientific data shows that Greece is the most successful country in the world in terms of the positive effects of electronic cigarettes on reducing smoking in the population,” said the study’s main researcher, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos.
He added that international research has shown that e-cigarette users are up to 11 times more likely to stop smoking, compared to those who do not use electronic cigarettes.
“The findings are extremely important, especially if we consider that our country has the highest prevalence of smoking in Europe,” Farsalinos said.
The study also indicated that 36.2 percent of e-cigarette users are also tobacco smokers, 62.2 percent are former smokers, while 0.2 percent have never smoked.
But the use of e-cigarettes may not be safe with little data yet available about their liquid ingredients and contents of the aerosol delivered to the user. A 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) report cautioned about potential risks of using e-cigarettes and regulated US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) products such as nicotine inhalers are likely safer than e-cigarettes.
Greece has tried to administer a half-dozen smoking bans over the last decade, all ignored by cigarette users who light up almost anywhere they want, including in schools and hospitals, on buses, post offices and other public buildings where the practice is allegedly banned.
Alternate Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis, a surgeon, showed the disdain Greeks have for smoking bans when he lit up a cigarette at a No Smoking Day news conference in the ministry building where it is not allowed. He was not prosecuted.