Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Greece Cracks Down on Smoking

In another sign that Greece is addressing its financial challenges, the country is cracking down on smoking. A new measure bans all smoking in public places and all cigarette advertisements.

A previous attempt, which had a complicated set of exceptions, was ineffective at curbing smoking, so the new measure includes no exceptions and imposes fines of up to €10,000 for business violations. During the current economic slowdown, the amount of the fine is enough to close down the average restaurant, so owners and workers will be forced to pay attention to the new rules. Individual smokers can be fined as much as €500 per violation. That’s not necessarily enough to be an effective deterrent, but it is more than just a token fine.

Greece is the smokiest country in Europe, where an estimated 40 percent of adults smoke cigarettes and more than half of the country’s medical expenses are smoking-related. The country can’t afford the costs of so many illnesses, not to mention the many other costs associated with tobacco use.

The government’s decisiveness in dealing with this issue is the same forthright approach we’ve seen in hundreds of other reforms that, taken together, have put Greece on a sound financial footing. This is a choice that was available to the country all along, and looking back, it is hard to understand why the previous government chose accounting fraud instead.