Cyprus - kids being exposed to high levels of passive smoking..

February 5, 2009 - Children in Cyprus have alarming levels of nicotine in their blood, researchers said on Monday, February 2, 2009 highlighting passive smoking (involuntary, secondhand, environmental tobacco smoke, ETS) is a threat to development.

Greek Health Ministry found traces of metabolized nicotine, known as cotinine, in the saliva of 94 percent of children from non-smoking households and 97 percent of all surveyed children. Eighteen percent of children aged between 4 and 8 showed high levels of the substance, the researchers said, citing a study of 71 households.

Greek Cyprus ranks 17th among EU member states for smoking prevalence, according to 2003 figures from the World Health Organization, but Greek Cypriot males are the bloc's 6th heaviest smokers. About 42 percent of households contain a smoker.

"The fact that children who lived in a non-smoking environment had cotinine suggests it is in their broader environment, like relatives' homes or other areas," said Stella Michaelidou, director of the State Laboratory. "It is a pilot survey but the results are too significant to ignore," she said.

"Children have a unique sensitivity to their environment because they are still developing. There is an important need to protect and prevent exposure to harmful chemicals," Michaelidou added.

Greek Parliament is debating ways to tighten the law for a blanket ban on smoking in all public places.

The public smoking ban is strictly followed and smokers still puff away in bars and nightclubs. Lack of Enforcement. The 2002-2004 Protection of Health (smoking) Unified Laws prohibits smoking in all public places, including nightclubs, cafes and restaurants, in all government buildings, public transport and in private cars carrying passengers under the age of 16. Separate smoking areas that are well ventilated will be introduced at the discretion of individual bar. cafe or restaurant owners. The current fines for breaking the ban are €34 (USD43.57) fine nightclubs and €85 (USD108.88) on public vehicles, which are inadequate and do not act as a deterrent. Of the nearly 21,400 checks carry out by the police on nightclubs since the beginning of the year, 1,066 were reported for not implementing the law’s provisions.

The EU’s Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou has expressed her disapproval regarding the failure of Cyprus to implement the ban properly. Greek Parliament is debating ways to tighten the law for a blanket ban on smoking in all public places.

Reference: Greek Cypriot males EU's 6th heaviest smokers, World Bulletin - Reuters, 2/2/2009; Cypriots number two in smokers’ league The Cyprus Weekly Newsletter, 5/31/2007; UPDATED* European smoking bans - Evolution of the legislation, European Public Health Alliance, European Public Health Alliance.