Study Shows Smoking Kills 15,000 Greeks Yearly, No Smoking Law Ignored

May 7, 2019

ATHENS – With successive governments bowing to pressure from smokers and refusing to fully enforce a series of no smoking laws, the cost in deaths – 15,000 annually – has been more than the revenues brought in with tobacco taxes.

That was the finding of a study from the Hellenic Thoracic Society which said as Greeks spend as much as 30 million euros ($33.59 million) a year on tobacco products, with cigarettes costing between 4-4.80 euros ($4.48-$5.37) a pack, 90 percent in taxes.

The study was presented May 4 during an event in the northern Greek city of Trikala for World Tobacco Day, and said that 37 percent of Greek adults smoke, including many women during their pregnancy.

In 2016, Greece ranked number one in the world – for major countries – for smoking rates and third technically behind the tiny Micronesia islands of Kiribati and Nauru. The Greek smoking rate then was 42.5 percent and has come down with taxes hiked by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA but the figures uncertain with many turning to the Black Market.

Of  the 36 percent of women who smoke at the beginning of pregnancy, only 19 percent kick the habit – and most of these start up again after giving birth, the study said, people unable to wean off addictive ingredients in cigarettes designed to keep them puffing and buying.

Overall 37.7 of women 18-34 are smokers, as are 51.2 percent of those 35-54 despite evidence showing the health risks, and data showing a rise of 5-10 percent in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease among women.

In 2016, reports showed that after the cigarette tax was raised again in an attempt to bring in money despite the deaths and health costs of treating people ill because of smoking, but that many smokers just turned to buying illicit cigarettes, sold openly on some streets after smuggled in from other countries.

The tax hikes then were costing the government about 800 million euros ($851.12 million) annually in potential revenues with SYRIZA,  after promising to cut taxes, added another 40-50 cents to a pack of cigarettes for 2017, with estimates it would drive down expected revenues even further.


Smoking is so prevalent in Greece that Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis brazenly ignores the law, smoking in the ministry – even during a No Smoking event – and was photographed smoking and dancing in a club where it is banned but the law ignored.

Polakis was excoriated by for EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis’ complaint the Greek minister shouldn’t have done so.

Andriukaitis said he was shocked while in the Health Ministry for a World Cancer Day visit, to find the halls reeked of smoke, saying it was “shameful,” although common in Greece where people smoke almost anywhere they want, including in hospitals, schools, post offices, taverns, bars, night clubs, and public buildings.

Polakis, who is also a surgeon, said he was dealing with more pressing issues at the ministry than smoking, said Kathimerini. “Learn before you speak,” Polakis wrote on his Facebook account in a post addressed to Andriukaitis. “I’ll decide when to stop smoking, on my terms,” Polakis said, disregarding death statistics from smoking and health risks.

In March, after Greece’s highest administrative court struck down a 2011 ministerial decision exempting nightclubs with music and bigger than 300 square meters from anti-smoking laws, the government issued a decree reinstating protection for the clubs.

The Council of State (CoS) had shot down the exemption although the anti-smoking laws are essentially symbolic in Greece because they are rarely enforced except in certain areas and people can smoke almost wherever they want, including in hospitals.

A new motion to overturn the latest ministerial decision was filed with the CoS after the government re-issued the same decree that was overruled, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.


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