“The smoking ban is a bold initiative to protect public health. A symbolic move to modernise and refine our daily lives. But it is also an exercise in mutual respect that ultimately strengthens social cohesion,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday, in his address at the official presentation of the health ministry’s National Action Plan Against Smoking.
“The enemy is tobacco smoke, not smokers,” Mitsotakis stressed, while pointing out that other countries have succeeded in banning smoking in public spaces and Greece can do the same. “There is no longer any excuse, along the lines of ‘these things cannot be done in Greece’,” he said, urging all Greeks to uphold the anti-smoking laws.
“Eleven acts of legislation, presidential decrees and ministerial decisions in 10 years, with zero results. This is the sad account of the indoor smoking ban, supposedly enacted in 2009, ” Mitsotakis said, noting that governments did not dare, administrations took no action and society tolerated the habit, “as if smoking did not concern our health and culture, as if it were a harmless detail.”
The prime minister went on to present shocking figures concerning smoking in Greece, noting that one in six boys and one in eight girls at the age of 15 were smokers, while 94.6 pct of the population were exposed to passive smoking in one way or another.
Smoking was estimated to cause 20,000 deaths per year, he added, as well as being responsible for 700,000 days of hospitalisation costing one billion euros. He also highlighted Greece’s poor track record in terms of the public image it presented on smoking, with government ministers seen smoking on camera and even some doctors insisting on smoking in public, even in hospitals.
Mitsotakis sympathised with the 84 pct of citizens who considered the failure to implement anti-smoking laws a “cultural degradation” or the 76 pct who declared themselves outraged.
“We are responding to this displeasure with a national strategy and a strict ban on smoking in public spaces, in private work areas, in spaces where there are children, in cars where children are passengers…but also with a good and extremely inventive information and awareness campaign. Our aim is not to divide but an alliance for health. To highlight the individual responsibility that will lead to collective harmony,” he said.