ATHENS – Unable and unwilling to enforce a number of no-smoking bans, the Greek government now has been told by a high court that e-cigarettes are just the same as cigarettes and should be banned in public spaces, transportation and advertisements.
The Council of State plenary ruled that the electronic cigarettes that emit smoke “fall under the same restrictions as cigarette smoking,” the Athens-Macedonia News Agency reported, with no word on whether there’s any intention to enforce another alleged ban.
The court rejected a petition by the Association of Greek e-cigarette Businesses to cancel a series of decisions on its restricted use, adding that the group however could seek to recover losses.
Greeks and workers who aren’t allowed to smoke generally ignore the law, even in the workplace, in Metro kiosks where they sell tickets, in hospitals, public buildings, public spaces, restaurants, tavernas and bars with essentially no enforcement in a country with one of the highest rates of smoking in the European Union and the world.
In 2016, a photo of Greece’s Alternate Health Minister smoking at an anti-smoking press conference went viral, underscoring the problem of enforcing five ignored smoking bans in a country with one of the world’s highest rates of lighting up.
The event was the May 30 No Smoking Day and the picture of a tie-less, coat-less Pavlos Polakis – a surgeon – casually smoking set the Hellenic Anti-Cancer Institute to call on the ruling coalition led by his Radical Left SYRIZA and its partner the pro-austerity, far-right, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) to enforce the ban.
It isn’t enforced and people can smoke almost anywhere they want, including in hospitals, without having to worry about being caught or penalized. Students and teachers can smoke in schools.
The institute said the government should also require health warnings on packages of cigarettes to cover most of the surface despite evidence it deters hard-core smokers.