Greeks have finally understood the problem of smoking and are kicking the habit, says a leading authority on public health.
Speaking to the Greek Reporter, Prof. Panagiotis Behrakis, Director of the Public Health Institute at the American College of Greece and Head of SmokeFreeGreece, said there had been a “cultural shift” in attitudes to smoking.
Dr. Panagiotis Behrakis, played a crucial role in running the antismoking campaign in Greece while his philanthropist cousin, George Behrakis of Boston, MA, funded the project to change hearts and minds when it comes to smoking in Greece.
“It is very positive that three-in-four Greeks express anger at non-compliance with the anti-smoking laws and that 82 percent believe smoking downgrades our culture,” he says.
Behrakis referred to the results of a nationwide survey showing a significant decline in the number of Greeks describing themselves as smokers.
According to the survey, 27.1 percent of the population said they were smokers compared to 36.7 percent in 2012.
Behrakis said the drop was a record in the EU. He also pointed to a significant drop in cigarette sales in Greece.
However, Behrakis warns that Greece still gets a “very low mark” in implementing anti-smoking laws in restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs.
Ηe also notes that the poor situation on enforcing the smoking ban in public buildings such as courts, ministries, local authority premises and even parliament.
“There is no political will to enforce anti-smoking laws there,” he says. “Images of ministers and other officials smoking in public places send the wrong message and also show there is a lack of political will to enforce the law.”
On the other hand, the situation is improving in private offices, public transport and in particular the Athens Metro.
“When you tell Greeks that smoking is banned they adhere,” Behrakis says.
Behrakis points out that the most positive sign comes from the younger generation. He says it is encouraging that all recent education ministers have adopted the anti-smoking agenda and have cooperated in erasing the habit among the young.
Supported by The Behrakis Foundation, In the last seven years SmokeFreeGreece has been offering courses for pupils on the health benefits of a smoke-free environment.
At premises in Athens, Thessaloniki and Tegaia, Peloponnese, specialized staff teach young students about the adverse effects of smoking. The program has been a “resounding success,” Behrakis notes.