The two-month old smoking ban in Europe's nicotine-addicted nation, Greece, is facing a revolt as restaurant owners protested vehemently against it.
Under a campaign titled "Ashtrays Back Out", the operators said they will flout the regulations which prohibits lighting up in enclosed public spaces.
Advertisement"This country has gone crazy," the chairman of the association of restaurants and entertainment establishments Yiannis Tsakos told Flash Radio.
"If tobacco is so harmful, why then is it legally cultivated and sold?"
Tsakos said the move to ignore the ban and place ashtrays at indoor tables has been endorsed by the country's 152 related operator associations.
He argued that business was already down by 30-50 percent because of the recession gripping Greece, and the smoking restriction has brought a further slump of up to 80 percent in turnover.
"Greeks rarely go out without smoking", Tzeni Kontopanou, head of restaurant operators in the Athens district of Psyrri, told state television NET.
"For every person who is bothered there are a hundred who smoke," she said.
Some operators had already attempted to bypass the law in recent weeks by serving smokers in Athens' ubiquitous covered arcades.
Officials have pledged to uphold the law but business owners expect leniency as local elections will be held in three weeks.
"Mayors are not going to set loose police on us just before an election," an Athens barman told AFP.
Initiated on September 1, the drive supplements a prior crackdown in July 2009 which was aggressively pursued for a few months before controls relaxed when elections were called.
The legislation bans smoking in all enclosed public spaces except casinos and large music halls which have a nine-month extension to June.
Those who persist in flouting the law face fines from 50 to 500 euros (70 to 700 dollars) while business operators risk tougher penalties of 500 to 10,000 euros and repeat offenders could have their licenses revoked.
Over 40 percent of Greeks are smokers and go through an average of over 2,900 cigarettes every year.
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