Boob-bee-dee-boop boop boop – this is the news- rather, this is some of the news as the news in Athens is a bit bleak these days, much like the rest of the world. Lucky for you, the news I’m reporting is beneficial, unless you smoke, because smoking in Greece is banned. No, we mean it this time. No, really!
The current socialist government has been trying to force businesses to forbid smoking, gently at first in July 2009, but getting progressively pushier on the subject. Businesses translated the laws as they saw fit: the law only applied to small rooms, it’s okay if you smoke so long as there’s a section designated for non smokers, it’s perfectly acceptable to make the non-smoking section outside, etc. Maybe you’re starting to see the problems of enforcing a smoking ban in a country that loves cigarettes the way Yogi Bear loves picnic baskets; park ranger or no, they’ll keep on puffing.
800 specially trained officers are going around to bars, bazoukias and clubs and fining anyone with a cigarette as well as the business owners. Greeks have already adapted their survival techniques which might include keeping an ash tray in a shirt pocket or an opaque cup with water in front of them to drop the cigarette the moment they sense danger. Smoking in Greece has been a long-held sore point between locals and non-smoking travelers- but even so, it’s tough to imagine a kafeneio sans the haze of nicotine. Nightclub and cafe owners are wailing that the ban is destroying turnover at a time when businesses are teetering on the brink of failure.
Who will win? It remains to be seen, but for now, non-smoking travelers to Greece are likely to find a much larger percentage of smoke-free restaurants, cafes and hotels than their predecessors even one year ago. For the smoking traveler who joins in lighting up with the defiant Greek resistance, the price of getting caught ranges anywhere from 50-500 euros, making for an awfully expensive habit.
Here are some articles covering the smoking ban in Greece and various opinions on the matter:
the BBC (detailing the initial ban starting in September 2010)
If you’ve got an opinion on the much-loved tradition of smoking in Greece vs the global trend of stamping out cigarettes, leave it as a comment.
Feature image courtesy of dennis and aimee jonez via Flickr creative commons