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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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D’you think that perhaps the anti-smoking lobby of Europe have got a bit big for their boots in Spain and Greece – and France, too, by the sound of anecdotal evidence? Here in the UK, in the US, Canada, Oz and New Zealand there was, first of all, a concerted campaign to coerce people into giving up smoking through a combination of massively exaggerated health stories and unabashed emotional blackmail so that by the time bans were enacted the majority of people were non-smokers who either supported the ban openly or were complicit in its implementation through sheer apathy and a “not bovvered” attitude. This left the smokers as a small minority who could be easily shouted down or ignored. Thus bans were steamrollered in with seemingly no resistance or objections from the general public.

This campaign was also attempted for e.g. Germany. This is why the ban was not introduced nation wide.
Like with the e.g. English speaking countries and their people, the anti smoking lobby did the same here in England and they jumped to the conclusion that it would be relatively easy once the ban was enforced in one Bundesland (in Germany) and that the others would follow suit quickly. Last year (also in Summer) the smoking ban was enforced in Bavaria.
Perhaps the example of the English speaking nations as well as having one example (Bavaria) nearby having raised a few questions; the Austrians have postponed the public vote on the subject; in Hamburg the smoking ban was rejected and in Berlin the anti-smokers are struggling.

As for anti-smokers - the German ones are far more vicious than the English ones; it is not unheard of smokers being physically attacked in the streets. Perhaps this is what we need the English speaking ones to do - a blow on the back of one's head can wake people up!


This is why the ban was not introduced nation wide.

I read somewhere that it couldn't be introduced throughout Germany because the German constitution precluded such laws, so it had to be introduced piecemeal. I have forgotten the exact reason, but I think it was a safeguard that was built into the post-war German constitution, and perhaps was because of it a safeguard that Britain and other countries did not have.

I think it may be a bit similar to the way that bans have been introduced city by city and state by state throughout America, with nobody really trying very hard to get a federal ban (although Hillary Clinton was/is in favour of a federal ban).

But I don't have a source I can cite. It was something I read a couple of years ago.

Frank

Frank, I'll be your firsthand source on this one.

While viewing one of the debates amongst the Democrats, I was floored to hear Hillary Clinton say she didn't favor the Federal ban because she felt that local bans were more effective.

There were still about 6 candidates at that time, but Hillary and Obama were the obvious front-runners. The most vigorous proponent of the Federal ban was Joseph Biden, who is now our Vice-President. It broke down to 4 Federal ban Hawks and 2 Federal ban Doves, the other Dove being Barack Obama.

Neither the moderator, the press nor Hillary pursued Obama on his smoking either, which baffled me at the time.

My immediate reaction was that, since these two Doves were the obvious main contenders, they had the most to lose from disaffecting potential smoking voters.

I remember thinking, hallelujah, their handlers are finally aware that with 25-30 million votes at stake, they couldn't afford to ignore us anymore. This is one of the reasons I'm so keen on getting the big polling organizations to start tracking our voting propensities. The threat of what we'll do at the polls is almost as powerful as what we actually do.

Of course, Obama eventually won, immediately stuck it to us royally with taxes, quit smoking, and surrounded himself with frothing anti-smoking zealots in his administration. I despise him.

The only thing worse than a spiteful anti-smoker is a traitorous ex-smoking spiteful anti-smoker.

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