May 31st has been established by the World Health Organization as the international ”No-Tobacco Day.”
This day is a great opportunity for Greece and Greek citizenry to seriously contemplate the issue, as our nation is well-known for its passion for smoking.
Nearly a decade after the introduction of a general ban of smoking in public places in Greece, the country still lags behind other major nations which not only implement the ban strictly, but have also managed to reduce deaths related to this addictive habit. An important side effect of this is that it benefits their National Healthcare Systems as well.
Locals and visitors to Greece already know that most of Greece’s pubs, bars and restaurants, despite declaring that they implement the ban, when they are off the police’s radar, allow smoking inside their premises.
But when they wink at regulations like this, they violate not only the law, but the fundamental right of everyone else who does not want to be exposed to thousands of lethal substances from secondhand smoke.
For this reason, and due to the lack of discipline that Greeks are infamous for, many initiatives have attempted over the last several years to embed a smoke-free culture into Greek society.
One of the most prominent examples is the ”Smoke Free Greece” project, which was created and directed by the well-known Greek professor Dr. Panagiotis Behrakis.
The Smoke Free Greece organization coordinates a series of actions helmed by the well-known Research Lab of the Hellenic Cancer Society, directed by Behrakis, and the Institute of Public Health of the American College of Greece.
Tasked with the lofty goal of reducing smoking in this smoking-mad country, the events are an attempt to inform the public opinion about the harmful side effects of smoking, especially by putting its focus on Greece’s younger generations.
Smoke Free Greece currently runs educational conferences, interventions, special training sessions and promotions of corporate social responsibility on the issue of smoking.
Behrakis, who is Greece’s most prominent anti-tobacco public figure and a long-standing activist for public health, is an MD with two PhDs who practices in three different medical specialties — internal medicine, pulmonary medicine and critical care medicine.
His scientific expertise has led him to the position of Associate Professor of Respiratory Physiology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and he was also a former Adjunct Professor at Harvard University in the US.
He is currently the Director of both the George D. Behrakis Research Lab of the Hellenic Cancer Society and the Institute of Public Health of the American College of Greece.