ATHENS – After a number of phony wars on smoking by successive governments who didn’t follow up on vaunted promises to enforce No Smoking laws, New Democracy is preparing even tougher measures that will include heavier penalties that many establishments ignore.
A decision signed by the Finance, Citizens’ Protection, Health and Interior ministries will double the fine for those caught smoking in closed public places, such as offices, bars, restaurants and cafes – to 100 euros ($110.68.)
That’s if it’s enforced as many places still let people light up where they want, including chains like the Bread Factory and cafes and restaurants in smaller towns far from Athens where smokers smoke at tables with No Smoking signs and are encouraged to do so by the owners.
The new government has repeatedly stated its intent to get tough and that police would help enforce the law by accompanying inspectors who are often harassed for trying to do their job but there hasn’t been any reports of major fines or prosecutions yet.
Allegedly, violators now found smoking in closed or open areas frequented by children – including schools, nurseries, parks and sports arenas – will face a penalty of 200 euros ($221.37,) while those caught smoking in a vehicle in which children aged under 12 are passengers will face a fine of 1,500 euros ($1660.27) said Kathimerini in a report.
It wasn’t reported whether smoking laws would be enforced in Parliament where staff members as well as Members of Parliament have long ignored the laws they passed and with Pavlos Polakis, an alternate health minister for the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA smoking in the health ministry, at a No Smoking Day conference and in nightclubs, defying anyone to stop him.
Owners or managers of public venues that allow patrons to smoke will face a minimum fine of 500 euros ($553.42) for each violation and will be fined the same if they don’t post No Smoking signs, with the fines doubled for a second offense.
For larger bars and clubs – covering a surface area of more than 100 square meters – fines will start from 2,000 euros ($2213.70)– and for those larger than 300 square meters (984.25 square feet) – fines will start from 6,000 euros ($6641.10) while a place can be closed for a fifth offense.
Inspections will carried out by mixed teams of the Greek Police, municipal police and local authorities. Meanwhile the Health Ministry is to activate a hotline, 1142, on which citizens can report violations.
According to the joint decision, 40 percent of the revenue collected from the fines is to go the Health Ministry, 30 percent to the Interior Ministry, 20 percent to the Citizens’ Protection Ministry and 5 percent to the Shipping and Tourism ministries.