ATHENS, May 31 (Xinhua) -- A decade after the introduction of a general ban on smoking in enclosed public places in Greece, the country still lags behind other nations in the effort to restrict the addictive habit, the Hellenic Cancer Society (HCS) said on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day 2019 on Friday.
In a press statement, the HCS calls for immediate action to reduce the number of smokers in Greece, stressing that smoking remains one of the greatest threats to human health.
According to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year.
In Greece particularly, more than 15,000 people die every year of smoking-related causes, while they spend between 25 million and 30 million euros (27.9-33.4 million U.S. dollars) annually on cigarettes, according to a study presented recently by the HCS.
Greek experts underline that in Europe, the lung cancer mortality rate is the highest in Greece. "Every year, this form of cancer kills a population equal to the inhabitants of an island, such as Ikaria or Leros. If we take into account other types of cancer and illnesses caused by smoking, in a few years the number of deaths would wipe out so many of our fellow citizens as the population of the Cyclades islands," the HCS stresses in its message.
In an open letter, the Hellenic Cancer Society calls on the newly elected Greek regional and municipal authorities to actively support its campaign to make playgrounds smoke-free and beaches and public areas free of cigarette butts.
"Contamination of the environment by the toxic substances and the non-biodegradable plastic material of cigarette filters is extremely high, especially the pollution of our seas," the HCS concludes.
Trikala in northwestern Greece is the first smoke-free city in Greece. Serifos Island, located in the western Cyclades and a popular tourist destination, announced on Wednesday the designation of the country's first smoke-free beach.
The beach of Vagia, which belongs to the European Natura network of protected natural sites, will go smoke-free this summer on the initiative of Serifos municipality and the A.C Laskaridis Charitable Foundation.