The May 2015 Eurobarometer [1] indicates that smoking prevalence is the highest in Greece with 38% of smokers. The same survey also showed that 56% of the Greeks were in favor of the e-cigarette in a tobacco harm-reduction perspective.

Eurobarometer's data on smoking prevalence
Eurobarometer’s data on smoking prevalence

In a recent article [2]  describing the sorry state of tobacco control in which the 2008 financial crisis left the country, the authors reveal that no money was collected by the Government in 2015 neither for fines nor for infringement of smoking-related laws, for selling tobacco and alcohol to minors nor in annual licensing fees for areas where smoking is permitted in enclosed spaces. The amount of income predicted by the Greek Parliamnet in 2016 is zero for both budgets.

“Current Greek government has no intention to protect non-smokers (…) prevent minors from buying tobacco” but a marked intention to prevent smokers from switching to vaping…

With the country still in recession and in dire need of money, the 2016 budget serves as a cynical confession that the current Greek government has no intention to protect non-smokers from exposure to SHS [secondhand smoke], prevent minors from buying tobacco or even impose fines to offenders“, wrote the authors [2] who call the EU and Public Health Authorities to pressure the coalition Government to enforce public bans on smoking.

It is in this context that the Greek Government plans to limit the access to the personal vaporizer by implementing the following measures:

  • Ban on vaping in public places,
  • Specific taxation of vaping products,
  • Ban on online sales.

A similiar situation was proposed by Slovenia, where the same measures were announced by the Government to implement the EU TPD. In response, Konstantinos Farsalinos and Jacques Le Houezec exposed to the public, associations and authorities, the urgent necessity not to prevent people from accessing vaping products and to adopt the lightest regulation possible to the personal vaporizer.

Putting taxes on a product that is already fragilized by unadapted regulations is certainly not the best option for ensuring a robust income to the Government’s finance department. In Italy, the creation of a parliamentary intergroup “electronic cigarette” was decided in order to promote this alternative in public health and “expand an industry that can do business without harm health“.

With the help of the researcher Konstantinos Farsalinos, the Greek vapers who still have no formalized advocacy structure, try to attract the attention of the media on the necessity to open a dialogue with the government about their plans for the personal vaporizer and vaping products.

Obviously, smoking and secondhand smoke exposure are major concerns and likely the first issued to be addressed by the Greek Government before they stifle vaping and send back current vapers to tobacconists.

Fighting against an enemy is a noble cause but mistaking on the name of this enemy is likely to create even larger delays in solving the real problems that are a high smoking prevalence and a weakness in law enforcement.

Will the Greek government draw a red line between tobacco and vaping products?

[1] European Commission, Directorate General Health and Consumers. Special Eurobarometer 429/Wave 82.4—Attitudes of Europeans Towards Tobacco and Electronic Cigarettes. Brussels: Special Eurobarometer;.

[2] Filippidis, F. T., & Tzoulaki, I. (2016). Greece giving up on tobacco control.Addiction, 111(7), 1306-1307.