Recently elected Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has vowed to enforce a previously existing law aiming to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces.
The law was originally adopted in 2008 but has been largely unenforced in practice — a rare occurrence in most EU member states.
Various Greek government administrations have promised to implement the anti-smoking law in the past decade but have made minimal to no progress.
Greek media have reported that Mitsotakis is determined to finally enforce the ban in hospitals, academic institutions, sports facilities, restaurants, cafes and clubs.
The prime minister’s conservative New Democracy party is planning to improve enforcement by allowing citizens to report violations via telephone.
The phenomenon highlights Greece’s broader struggles to create smoke-free environment. Such struggles are detailed in a 2015 World Health Organization report about the global tobacco epidemic.
Eurostat has also released data which corroborate the report’s findings. According to said data, Greece — along with Bulgaria — has the highest smoking rates in the EU.
European Commission officials have condemned Greek officials’ failure to follow through on their promises.
“From our perspective, there is little value in having laws if they are not enforced,” EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in a 2017 interview with EURACTIV.
Andriukaitis also raised the issue last year during a speech in Athens when he showed a picture of Greece’s former vice minister for health, Pavlos Polakis, smoking in a public space.
“It’s a shame,” he said. “It is not a matter of free will if someone smokes or not. When this happens in a public area, it is a violation of human rights.”
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