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frank_davis


Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban


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Report From Greece
frank_davis4
frank_davis
Guest post from Nisakiman.


The Greeks, on the whole, are a pretty feisty bunch. They don't take kindly to those in power trying to make their choices for them.

Witness the reaction to the recent austerity measures imposed as a result of the EU bailout.

And anyone who has visited this country cannot have failed to notice that most people riding motorbikes and scooters like to do so with the wind in their hair, despite there having been a law requiring the wearing of helmets for donkey's years.

So banning smoking in public places was never going to be easy here. If you google "Greece smoking ban", you will see a long list of headings like - "11 Jun 2009 ... /Greece-to-impose-smoking-ban-on-July-1-in-third-attempt-to-stamp-out-the..."; " 1 Jul 2009 ... Greece will impose a limited smoking ban in public places"; "Greece smoking ban takes effect. (AFP) – Sep 1, 2010. ATHENS"; "19 Jan 2011 ... ATHENS — Greece has pledged to enforce a smoking ban", etc. etc.

They are, however, under considerable pressure from the EU to enforce the smoking ban. I read somewhere (can't remember where) that this was one of the provisos that came with the bailout package, although I'm not sure as to the veracity of that. Whatever, there seems to be fresh impetus for enforcement. There is a good summary of the current smoking ban situation in Greece by Carol Cattell on Freedom-2-Choose here, which covers the political and practical aspects of the proposed enforcement, but as she says " Will it work?"

The Greeks are by-and-large a law-abiding people. The crime rate is by European standards extremely low, and I've never worried about walking the streets alone late at night. But when it comes to arbitrary laws like the helmet law and the smoking ban, the attitude tends to be "who the fuck are they to tell me how to live my life?" and they carry on as they always have.

The smoking ban applies of course to all "public" places, as in the UK; that is workplaces, government offices, bars etc. Since the "crackdown" began mid January, I have been to my accountant (chain smoked throughout), the tax office (full ashtray on the desk), renewed my bike tax (fag hanging out of his mouth), Post Office (ashtrays on the desks at the back, smoke in the air), caught a bus (driver was smoking and talking on his mobile most of the journey), and of course in all these places, as required by law, there were big "NO SMOKING" signs prominently displayed. Well, they complied with that bit! Needless to say, all the bars and restaurants I've been to recently provide ashtrays. About the only place I've noticed people don't smoke is in the big supermarkets and the pharmacies, which has been the case for years. The butcher sits in his shop smoking and drinking tsipouro (a fierce Grappa-like spirit) with his mates. The local betting / lottery shop is a fug, and there are bottles of whisky and Ouzo on the table. Maria, who owns the village mini-market / deli / post office counter always seems to have a fag on the go. So all in all, I would say that the "crackdown" hasn't really had a massive impact to date.

How long this continues to be the case I can't guess. The government has set up "snitch" lines so antis can report transgressors, and of course there is that pernicious system whereby a bar owner is fined heavily if a customer is caught smoking, thus coercing the customer into not making problems for the host. And of course the 'divide and conquer' ploy is ever present in that a bar owner who is in a high profile location, and thus forced to comply with the ban will often report the guy with the bar in a side street round the corner who's getting his lost trade.

There is growing resistance to the ban though. This in the Athens News recently for instance. Note "She added that the owners throughout Western Macedonia will continue and escalate their actions if a solution is not given to their problem. " And an article from last October in Bloomberg here indicates that the bar / restaurant owners don't intend to give up without a fight.

Another salient point which further muddies the issue here is that a large percentage of the police, who are for the most part the ones charged with enforcing this law, also like to go to bars for a drink and a smoke, so are not exactly over-enthusiastic about policing the ban.

I sincerely hope that my adopted countrymen continue to stand up to the control freaks in Brussels that would have them knuckle under. It would be a sad day indeed if Greece went the way of the rest of the EU countries who seem to have succumbed to the lies and misinformation disseminated by the tobacco control lobby.

After all, as has been said many times before, this kind of draconian legislation is not in any way compatible with the freedoms our fathers and grandfathers fought and died for. Those freedoms were costly in human life, and hard won. We should not allow them to be taken from us piecemeal by a coterie of fanatics with an agenda.

Time will tell how things pan out. I hope to post the occasional update.


P.S. In other European news, in Spain the Andalusian Federation of Hospitality expects to get one million signatures protesting against the smoking ban, surpassing the 500,000 signatures needed for a popular legislative initiative.

Late postcript: Latin American Herald Tribune 3 Mar 2011

Venezuela Cancels Smoking Ban
A day after a smoking ban is promulgated, it is annulled.

CARACAS -- Venezuela’s Ministry of Health has annulled by decree an anti-smoking law which would have prohibited smoking in public places and offices of work a day after it was published. By contrast to the US, Canada, Europe and Asia, Venezuela is one of the few countries that still allowed smoking in a wide variety of public places, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and stadiums.

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INVITE GREEK SMOKERS TO THE UK

(Anonymous)

If every smoker in the UK invited a Greek smoker over for a holiday it would be the end of the smoking ban in the UK.

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