GR US

Letter from Athens: Let's Clear the Air About What Papastratos Really Does

Ευρωκίνηση

Papastratos factory in Aspropyrgos suberb of Athens. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Christos Bonis)

It was such a gracious gesture by Greece's major tobacco company Papastratos – in 2020 again named the country's Top Employer – to donate 50 ventilators to public hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Especially since the death sticks it makes puts more people in Intensive Care Units (ICU's) and kills more in one year than the coronavirus would in four years at the current sad rate of the tragic death toll.

In the first year of COVID-19, there were more than 6,500 people who perished, ICU's often pushed to near 100 percent capacity to help people desperately breathe and cling to life, much like those who smoke while lugging around oxygen tanks.

Warning signs on packages of Assos cigarettes, one of the company's top brands, advise Smoking Damages Your Lungs, Smoking Seriously Harms You and Others Around You, and, ominously and also ignored: το κάπνισμα μπορεί να σε σκοτώσει.

It means: Smoking Can Kill You but it might as well say "Smoke 'em If You Got 'Em" because the addicted don't care what it says, they're going to light up and inhale until they get Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or wind up on a ventilator.

If it's one that Papastratos donated it should come with an advisory label: If You Didn't Smoke Our Products You Wouldn't Be Here.

Tobacco companies typically will say that there's no proof that smoking kills, a long-destroyed argument accepted by courts in class action suits and legal action in the United States, but not brought before courts in Greece, one of the heaviest-smoking countries in the world, though the numbers are finally beginning to fall.

The site Tobacco Atlas said tobacco-related diseases in Greece kill some 22,700 people yearly, while noting that, “Greece has made progress on tobacco control in recent years. However, people continue to die and become sick needlessly, and the costs to society from tobacco use continue to mount.”

Those deaths and costs are overshadowed now because all anyone can think about every day for more than a year is COVID-19's imperceptible particles of death lingering in expelled breaths, but you can see tobacco, a constant killer for generations.

“Complacency in the face of the tobacco epidemic insulates the tobacco industry in Greece and ensures that tobacco's death toll will grow every year,” the site said, companies pumping out more than 28.72 BILLION cigarettes a day.

Every day in Greece, it added, more than 12,000 children 10-14 and 2,225,900 adults continue to use tobacco despite the valiant efforts of anti-smoking campaigns that are beginning to work, and No Smoking Laws finally enforced after a decade.

But Papastratos wants to you believe it's benevolent and has your best interests and health in mind, which is why it carefully follows the law about putting the warning signs on packages when it would really like them to read: Smoke, Smoke, Smoke.

As part of its munificence and caring, it's working with the country's tax collection agency AADE – happy to rake in death taxes from products killing 62 people a day -

In a scheme to slow illicit tobacco trade.

That's really a partnership for the Papastratos-AADE cartel to get rid of competition in the form of smuggled cigarettes that are often sold on the streets, sometimes one at a time to people who need a tobacco fix, with nicotine as addictive as heroin, cocaine, and crack.

Papastratos is the El Chapo of Greece, killing people faster and more effectively than COVID-19 and, for the company, here's the best part: except for a few anti-smoking groups and the Hellenic Cancer Society, nobody cares! How great is that for business!

AADE head Giorgos Pitsilis and Papastratos Chairman and CEO Christos Harpantidis signed the agreement in which the tobacco company will donate equipment to the agency to fight unlawful competition, said Kathimerini.

“This agreement is viewed as an opportunity to develop action and change our way of thinking in the field of smuggling and protection of consumers. I hope it will be another step in cooperation that, on the one hand, will lead us to work at the same table to face common challenges and, on the other hand, will translate into concrete actions with visible results,” Pitsilis said. Where's the barf bag when you need it?

Nine of the Papastratos ventilators went to the Sotiria General Hospital of Thoracic Diseases in Athens, drawing praise from Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias, tasked with trying to slow health hazards, including widespread tobacco use.

Seems only fair the company provides ventilators for people who wind up in Sotiria for using their products, which Greeks spend as much as 30 million euros ($36 million) on each year, not counting the illicit trade Papastratos wants to cash in on too.

Greece has the highest lung cancer mortality rate in Europe, which tobacco companies would like to think is an inconvenient coincidence for them, but with their products you can say: where there's smoke there's lung cancer.

The Hellenic Cancer Society said the disease annually 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 as many of our fellow citizens as the population of the Cyclades islands.”

Thank you for smoking.