Young smokers in Greece don’t plan on butting out despite the looming smoking ban, which bar and club owners claim will destroy their businesses.
Greece will impose a tobacco ban in public places on July 1 in its third attempt in a decade to stamp out the habit in Europe’s worst nation for smoking.
Under the terms of a law voted a year ago, thousands of restaurants and bars over 70 square metres will have to build sealed off smoking areas.
Establishments under that size must choose whether to accept smokers or go entirely tobacco-free, while those lighting up illegally will face fines up to 500 euros ($860AUD).
“Our society is more ready than ever to embrace this,” Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told a news conference.
But many say he is out of touch with reality, as most Greeks on the street admit they have no plans on quitting smoking, forcing many bar and club owners to consider alternatives.
“The reality of the situation is very grim for us bar owners,” Dimitrios Farmakis, who owns a bar in central Athens told Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE).
“If we enforce the law strictly we could lose a lot of customers, which considering the current economic climate, is not the best thing that could happen to us.
“If we don’t follow the laws we face the risk of being fined, which again is obviously not in our best interest,” Mr Farmakis added.
Another bar owner, Yiannis Pavlidis, believes this law, like many others in Greece, is just showboating by a government that is incapable of enforcing the very laws it passes.
“Just like seatbelts for drivers and passengers in cars and helmets for motorcycle riders this is another law that will not be properly enforced and I’m sure it will become a mockery in no time at all,” Mr Pavlidis said.
Many smokers, including most younger ones, agree that it will be difficult to enforce the law, which they don’t really plan on following anyway.
“This is just another joke, almost everyone that goes to a bar in Greece smokes, how on earth are they going to stop us,” Despoina Pliatsika said.
Her boyfriend, Panos Georgakopoulos, is a 26-year-old barman that has been smoking for 10 years that believes its impossible to ask Greeks to stop smoking.
“How can I tell someone sitting at the bar not to smoke when I myself will want to light up, I can’t work an eight hour shift without a smoke and I sure don’t have the luxury to take a break for a cigarette as I work alone most nights. Forget it, this law is a joke.
The Health Ministry though says this is no laughing matter.
They claim approximately 7,000 Greeks are diagnosed with lung cancer every year.In the overwhelming majority of cases the ailment is a direct consequence of smoking, doctors say.
Last month Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos noted that 20,000 Greeks die of smoking-related diseases every year, adding that the habit costs the National Health System 2.14 billion euros annually ($AUD 3.6billion).
The anti-smoking push is the third this decade, after legislation passed in 2002 and 2003 outlawing smoking in public places was mostly ignored.
“In Greece we are used to saying that laws are passed but not enforced,” conceded Avramopoulos.
“Smoking is already prohibited in hospitals but the ban is not obeyed.”
“We will all be judged here…this is the start of an effort to change the mentality on what is this country’s most crucial public health issue,” he said.
A 2007 survey found the number of smokers in Greece had risen 10 per cent in a decade while other developed nations were kicking the habit.