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The Observer
Subversive Greeks stub out cigarette habit in record numbers

As tobacco use plummets, figures reveal dramatic attitude shift from EU’s worst

Helena Smith

Sat 20 Jan 2018 12.44 GMT
First published on Sat 20 Jan 2018 12.09 GMT

Man smoking outside boarded-up shop Atens

No campaign could do it. No health warning could do it. And, for a very long time,
no change in the price of a pack could do it.

But as they learn to survive on less, Greeks have earned themselves the unusual
distinction of abandoning cigarettes in record numbers. In a rare feelgood story
from the crisis-plagued country, experts who had previously blamed the nation’s
tobacco epidemic for the critical state of its health system are in ebullient mood.
“I am 100% sure we have solved the problem,” said Panagiotis Behrakis, who heads
the Joint Action force on tobacco control in Europe. “It is now just a matter of

A leading respiratory physiologist, long at the forefront of global efforts to
combat nicotine addition and premature mortality from smoking, the former Harvard
professor is not given to hyperbole. His has been no easy battle. Greece, at 27%,

“People are giving up not so much for health reasons as financial reasons.1bn cigarettes in 2007 to 17. bar and restaurant owners declared they were simply putting ashtrays back on tables. had been cut by almost half over the past decade from an estimated 35. “And there are still a lot of hardcore fundamentalist smokers out there. “ It is a moral victory. But if role models are in short supply in a country where even the health minister is prone to light up. and now we are seeing the fruits of years of campaigning in schools. recent studies have also shown a dramatic shift in attitudes towards tobacco. “That’s a fall of almost 2 percentage points every year. Such was the innate anti-authoritarianism of their customers. his last survey. invariably.” he said. The greatest drop he has noted is among higher-income earners.” said Aliki Mouriki. what we are seeing is the feeding taps being slowly closed. he said.7% of Greeks said they were either regular or casual smokers. And while politicians have done little to enforce a ban enacted to bring Greece in line with European anti-smoking legislation.” Topics Greece The Observer Europe Tobacco industry Health Smoking news Share on LinkedIn Share on Pinterest Share on Google+ Reuse this content View all comments > . are manned by officers with cigarette in hand. At both ends of the age spectrum there was a noticeable decline in Greeks either quitting or not taking up the habit.” But Behrakis disagrees. The battle is with those who are middle-aged.6 percentage points over the past five years.9bn in 2016. Tobacco consumption. a prominent sociologist.” he said. in parliament MPs unabashedly puff away while police stations. It’s very high – a record number. with a big fall in Greeks under the age of 24 becoming smokers.” he said. “Only 13% of Greeks over the age of 65 smoke. In 2012. In hospitals nationwide doctors think nothing of lighting up. 36. An attempt to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces has been merrily flouted from the day it was announced at the start of Greece’s economic crisis in late 2009.still tops Eurostat’s league tables of daily smokers. this survey has shown that the vast majority of Greeks now believe reduction of the nation’s proclivity for nicotine should be seen as a national goal. the number of smokers had dropped 9. “If smoking in this country is like a vessel with two holes. in fact. as a result.1%. This month. In 2017 the figure had fallen to 27. Behrakis announced. Smoking cessation clinics and seminars have multiplied since Greece’s economic meltdown.

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