Has Smoking In Greece Changed in 2020? What Can Travelers Expect

Published On: May 19, 20206.9 min read
Smoking in Greece

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_separator color=”black” border_width=”3″][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]The reality of smoking in Greece is slowly but steadily changing [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]Often described as the favourite past time of the nation, the prevalence of smoking in Greece has never been a secret.

Statistics will tell you Greece has the highest number of tobacco users in Europe and can easily compete globally as well with nearly 2 in 5 Greeks over the age of 15 smoking daily. As recently as 2017, reports showed that only 44% of Greeks have never had a cigarette, the smallest in the EU and more than 78% of people are exposed to smoke when dining out. A figure that is grossly higher than the 10% recorded in most other European countries.

As grim as those figures are, smoking in Greece seems to be declining, with reports from the last ten years dropping from 40 to 27.5 percent and younger people being more aware and resistant to insidious cigarette advertising and the smoking culture prevalent in the country.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Laws and bans that were not meant to be 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]Just like most European countries, smoking in Greece was and is forbidden.

Back in 2008, a strict smoking ban was introduced, then laughably forgotten about, with the vice-minister for health famously spotted smoking while addressing the public during a televised meeting.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

What has changed in terms of smoking in Greece in 2020

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]The new centre-right government led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a stern and devout anti-smoker, introduced strict regulations in the middle of last year to eradicate the prevalence of smoking in Greece.

The ban was enforced in hospitals, educational institutions, sports facilities, restaurants , cafes and clubs. Pretty much anywhere where it is already common knowledge that one should not smoke!

For the first time, heavy fines were also enforced both for the smoker and the owners of establishments if they did not adhere to the law.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Smoking in Greece in 2020 – How did we experience the changes?

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]The changes came in fast and swift. Ashtrays disappeared from tables, groups of smokers gathering outside for a puff became frequent sightings and no self-respecting smoker could enjoy a beer without lamenting about the loss of their favourite accessory.

The new smoking law meant that the 72% of restaurant establishments that until then permitted indoor smoking turned into smoke-free zones.

From October 2019, smoking indoors in Athens and Thessaloniki disappeared overnight. During Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, nightclubs and restaurants offered their freezing customers some outdoor space where they could congregate if they so wished to.

And even during the coldest of months, in places where the ‘smoking police’ could arguably not reach, cafe and restaurant owners adamantly denied people the chance to light up within their premises.

During a winter trip to Santorini back in February, just before the covid-19 pandemic closed down establishments, not one restaurant was to be found accommodating smokers.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Has smoking in Greece been completely banned?

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]To understand the culture of smoking in Greece, we would have to explore the reasons why smoking has been welcomed.

That would mean that the enforcement of the law has as much to do with the cultural profile of smokers in Greece as it has with the financial crisis that has been tormenting the country in the last decade.

While you will still find passionate supporters of the ‘right to smoke’, a defiant notion that has often characterized the Greek psyche, the vast majority of smokers and non-smokers are well aware of the hazards of second-hand smoke and happy to refrain in order to protect others from being exposed to cigarette smoke.

In previous year, only a few restaurant and cafe owners had dared to enforce strict no smoking guidelines without government support within their shops, from fear of loosing a significant number of their clientele.

While we are not still at the point where 100% of establishments are adhering to the law, visitors will find that the new norm is for your waiter to remind you to smoke outside or risk being turned away.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

What do the new smoking changes mean for travelers visiting Greece?

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]Against all odds and with an economy that had only recently started to recover before the covid-19 pandemic brought everything to halt, Greece is set to reopen for tourism from as early as July 1.

From the almost 3,000 reported cases, the 155 deaths attributed to covid-19 has been low compared to neighboring countries, news that surprisingly positive considering our recent history.

While the summer nightlife experience will not be the same, visitors will still be able to soak up the Grecian sun and relax in our world renowned beaches just as usual this summer.

And if the last year is any indication, we will continue to see strict measures enforced in regards to smoking and tourists and Greeks alike will be able to enjoy smoke-free experiences in bars and Greek tavernas.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”6688″ img_size=”full” style=”vc_box_rounded”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_text_separator title=”Rania Kalogirou”][vc_column_text]

Rania grew up in Thessaloniki and after some years of travelling around the globe has now settled down in Auckland, New Zealand. When she’s not studying to complete her undergraduate degree she’s either reading, writing or exploring the outdoors.

She loves going on mini adventures, whether it is an impromptu road trip, exploring her local op shops and antique shops or going on multi-day hikes. She is interested in photography and strongly believes that feta should be consumed with every meal.

She also thinks Greece is the best holiday destination and invites anyone that thinks otherwise to prove her wrong.


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Rania Kalogirou

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