In a piece of welcome news for anti-smoking campaigners, it was announced on Wednesday that Greeks cut their smoking by more than one half over the last decade.
Smoking was reduced by fully 52.4% overall over the last ten years, according to new ELSTAT data, and crucial gains were made in the 14-16 demographic.
As of September, 2019, 24.9% of adults in Greece reported that they smoked more than one cigarette per day. Almost four percent, or 3.7%, reported that they were “occasional” smokers, who smoked less than seven cigarettes per week.
Smoking by youngsters decreased by more than half
Using information from 8,500 Greek households gleaned from studies in 2009, 2014 and 2019, experts say that the number of daily smokers decreased by 24.5% and occasional smokers decreased in number by an impressive 38.3%.
However, in the crucial younger demographic, those under the age of 24 are increasingly less likely to smoke, with reductions amounting to a whopping 52.4% over those years.
Professor Panagiotis Behrakis, the chairman of the Committee of Experts of the Ministry of Health for smoking and director of the Institute of Public Health of the American College of Greece, remarked on the results.
Referring to the ELSTAT survey on smoking habits, he stated that the results “confirm recent historical trends in Greece.
Numbers do not square with WHO reports
“In addition, they agree with corresponding European reports but raise questions about the sources of the World Health Organization (WHO) which recently stated that Greece appears to be a country of smokers, with a smoking prevalence of more than 42%.”
Behrakis stated that nevertheless, the country is moving toward the European Union goals of smoking reduction and cessation. He reiterated that his directive, named “SmokeFreeGreece,” will continue with its mission to persuade Greek citizens to stop smoking, and for young Greeks to never begin smoking.
SmokeFreeGreece is a series of coordinated initiatives organized by the George D. Behrakis Research Lab, the Hellenic Cancer Society and the Institute of Public Health at The American College of Greece aiming to reduce smoking in our country.
Since 2010, Behrakis’ organization has sponsored annual Panhellenic School Student Competitions called “Education for a Smokefree Generation.”
The organization believes that, as increased knowledge and awareness are key to smoking prevention, they developed educational interventions tailored to inform teachers and school-aged children on tobacco use, operated through SmokeFreeGreece.
“Train the Trainer” Workshops
The organization also has instituted “Train-the-trainer” workshops to allow teachers and others to educate teachers, parents and volunteers through lectures on the health effects of smoking and passive smoking.
The sessions also teach about effective methods for prevention and cessation of smoking among school-aged children.
During the practical part of the sessions, participants are taught the methodology of the intervention followed by hands-on practice through a mock intervention using role play.
The workshops have been approved by the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs. Participation is free of charge and all participants who complete the training receive a certificate at the end of the session.
Over 2,460 teachers and healthcare professionals have completed the “Train-the-trainer” workshop cities all over Greece including in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Tripoli, Volos, Karditsa, Heraklion, Chios, Alexandroupolis, Ioannina and Chania.
The workshops were later tailored for health professionals to host interventions in hospitals and health centers as well.