The Greek health ministry has confirmed that it will impose a tobacco ban in public places on July 1. This is the third attempt in a decade to stamp out the habit in Europe's biggest-smoking nation.
Under the terms of a law voted a year ago, thousands of restaurants and bars over 70 square metres will have to build sealed-off smoking areas.
AdvertisementEstablishments under that size must choose whether to accept smokers or go entirely tobacco-free, while those lighting up illegally will face fines up to 500 euros (703 dollars).
"Our society is more ready than ever to embrace this," Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told a news conference.
Around 20,000 Greeks die every year from tobacco-related ailments and around 42 percent of the population smokes according to European Commission figures, ahead of Bulgaria (39 percent) and Latvia (37 percent).
The anti-smoking push is the third this decade, after legislation passed in 2002 and 2003 outlawing smoking in public places was mostly ignored.
"In Greece we are used to saying that laws are passed but not enforced," conceded Avramopoulos.
"Smoking is already prohibited in hospitals but the ban is not obeyed."
"We will all be judged here...this is the start of an effort to change the mentality on what is this country's most crucial public health issue," he said.
A 2007 survey found the number of smokers in Greece had risen 10 percent in a decade while other developed nations were kicking the habit.
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