ATHENS – It hasn’t happened yet, but the Hellenic Cancer Society is pushing the government to enforce No Smoking Laws, with half a dozen ignored for more than a decade, and as the Alternate Health Minister refuses to obey them and smokes in the ministry and nightclubs where it allegedly is prohibited.
There’s a ban – only symbolic, however as it’s not enforced – on smoking in enclosed public places, including restaurants and bars and taverns but smokers light up where and when they want with no fear of inspectors doing anything about it.
The society, to mark World No Tobacco Day on May 30, said the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA should immediately enforce the law that is essentially nearly totally disregarded, including in the Parliament, hospitals, schools, post offices, buses and other places.
The society’s call wasn’t reported by Greek media, but by the Chinese news agency Xinhua. Some 15,000 people die annually in Greece for smoking-related illnesses that cost untold millions in health costs as well but smokers don’t care.
The society said Greeks spend some 30 million euros ($33.6 million) a year on tobacco, not including the vast numbers who buy smuggled cigarettes that are sold openly on the streets and by hawkers walking up to drivers at traffic lights.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said tobacco kills more than seven million people each year but tobacco companies are mounting as they hook new generations now with electronic products that included flavored tobacco.
The society said that Greece, which the site Statista said had the highest rate of smoking in the European Union in 2017, also as the highest lung cancer mortality rate in the bloc.
Every year, this form of cancer kills a population equal to the inhabitants of an island, such as Ikaria or Leros. If we take into account other types of cancer and illnesses caused by smoking, in a few years the number of deaths would wipe out so many of our fellow citizens as the population of the Cyclades islands,” the HCS said, the report added.
In an open letter, the Hellenic Cancer Society called on the newly-elected Greek regional and municipal authorities to actively support its campaign to make playgrounds smoke-free and beaches and public areas free of cigarette butts, similar to other calls also ignored..
“Contamination of the environment by the toxic substances and the non-biodegradable plastic material of cigarette filters is extremely high, especially the pollution of our seas,” the HCS added.
Trikala in northwestern Greece is the first reported smoke-free city in Greece although it wasn’t said if anyone’s violating the law there too. The island of Serifos said it would create a smoke-free beach but there were no reports how that would be enforced, if at all.