Greece - bar and restaurant owners openly defying smoking ban..

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October 20, 2010 - On September 1, 2010 Greece tried again to ban lighting up in cafes, restaurants and workplaces. This time Greece has the help of Harvard School of Public Health. (More - Greece- September 1st embarks on 4th attempt in eight-years to ban smoking in public places..) A little over a month later we find that the Greeks are largely ignoring a new smoking ban, lighting up in restaurants and bars despite threats of fines on Europe’s heaviest smokers. (Greece - smoking ban - 4th attempt in 8-years failing..)

Now we find Greek bar and restaurant owners put ashtrays back on the tables on Monday, October 18th openly defying a smoking ban introduced by a government struggling to implement changes across society. The restaurateurs refuse to apply the ban, which came after several failed attempts, saying it drives Europe's heaviest smokers away at a time when business is already down because of Greece's worst recession in decades.

"This ban is the final blow," Yiorgos Kavathas, general secretary of the Greek restaurant owners federation, told Reuters. "Cafes and restaurants are shutting down. Our union estimates that at least 20,000 will close."

Most bars and many restaurants have silently ignored the ban, which went into effect on September 1, allowing customers to puff indoors after initially removing their ashtrays. On Monday they went one step further, openly declaring their refusal to comply despite threats of fines and revoking of licenses.

"This is the worst thing that could happen to a lawmaker and the government which has to enforce the law -- the refusal of society to comply with the rules," Health Minister Andreas Loverdos told Skai radio.

Greece's government is struggling to change other entrenched practices, including tax dodging, as part of reforms to streamline the state, fight corruption and re-establish the credibility of a country saved from bankruptcy by an EU/IMF bailout in May. Tax revenues are lagging far behind target despite efforts to capture all money transactions.

Analysts said the smoking ban was a key test of the government's determination to apply reforms. Roughly 40 percent of Greece's 11 million population smoke.

"If the government bows to pressure, it does not bode well for everything else they are trying to do," said Yanis Varoufakis, professor of economics at the University of Athens. "We have a long tradition in Greece of agreeing draconian laws without ever enforcing them."

The Health Ministry's general secretary for public health, Antonis Dimopoulos, said the government was determined to enforce the ban but was holding back on imposing fines because it wanted to persuade people to apply the ban voluntarily rather than force it through sanctions. "We will continue implementing the ban no matter what," he told Reuters, adding that the government would review its strategy in December. "This doesn't mean we will withdraw the ban."

Reference: Greek bars defy ban and put ashtrays back on tables by Ingrid Melander and Renee Maltezou, (Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Noah Barkin), Reuters, 10/18/2010.

Some Greece related news briefs:
Greece - smoking ban - 4th attempt in 8-years failing..;
More - Greece- September 1st embarks on 4th attempt in eight-years to ban smoking in public places..;
Greece to go smoke free startng September 1, 2010 this time with the help of Harvard School of Public Health..;
Harvard SPH to help Greece with smoking ban..;
Greece - to try again to ban smoking in all indoor public places..;
Greece - another increase in tobacco taxes can be expected..;
Greece - trusty kiosks to shut in tobacco tax protest..;
Greeks smoke in defiance of ban..;
Greece - latest attempt at a smoking ban failing..;
Greek Farmers Renew Bulgaria Border Blockade..;
E-cigarettes - scientists want more safety studies before use..;
Greece - to increase tax on tobacco and alcohol..;
Greece - smoking ban, re-examining the legal framework supporting it..;
Pregnant women exposed to passive smoke greater chance of child will have respiratory distress..;
Greek betting firm - July 1st smoking ban has resulted in a further fall in sales..;
Greece - will the July 1st smoking ban work??;
Greece - ban on smoking in workplace starts July 1, 2009..;
Greece starts anti-smoking campaign..;
Greece May Have the Highest Cigarette Consumption Per Person in the World...
(Hellenic Republic, Greek)