Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Greece vs. EU: Smoking habits, cigarette consumption, second-hand smoke

Illustration from

On the occasion of World ‘No Tobacco’ Day 2010, Eurobarometer published results of a survey on tobacco habits and found that Greeks are the EU’s most avid smokers.

The good news is smokers most often cite health as a reason to quit and the majority of EU citizens are in favor of additional health warnings and fees to offset tobacco-related health costs. The bad news is little attention is paid to the damage caused by second-hand smoke and an estimated 650,000 people die each year in the (then) 27-member bloc from smoking-related illnesses in spite of stepped-up anti-tobacco campaigns.

Greece’s health minister acknowledged the July 2009 smoking ban is not widespread, and said the law will be clarified and implemented (hopefully) starting September 2010. Doubts persist, as The Kathimerini points out the first anti-smoking legislation was signed in 1856.

For the purpose of this post, Greece will be highlighted in blue.

*Article last updated on July 1, 2013

Smoking habits

How does Greece compare to other EU nations? A breakdown of each country’s population by smoker, ex-smoker and non-smoker.

Smokers: Percentage of people between the ages of 15 and 55+ who smoke cigarettes, cigars or a pipe:

Greece — 42
Bulgaria — 39
Hungary — 38
Latvia — 36
Spain — 35
Austria — 34
Poland — 33
France — 33
Cyprus — 32
Estonia — 32
Ireland — 31
Belgium — 30
Romania — 30
Lithuania — 30
Denmark — 29
EU average — 29
UK — 28
Slovakia — 26
Slovenia — 26
Malta — 26
Italy — 26
Czech Republic — 26
Luxembourg — 25
Germany — 25
Netherlands — 24
Portugal — 23
Finland — 21
Sweden — 16

Ex-smokers: Percentage of those who once smoked but quit.

Netherlands — 33
Denmark — 31
Sweden — 31
Finland — 27
France — 26
Germany — 26
Ireland — 26
UK — 25
Slovenia — 24
Austria — 23
EU average — 22
Luxembourg — 22
Poland — 22
Belgium — 21
Estonia — 21
Slovakia — 21
Spain — 21
Ireland — 20
Czech Republic — 19
Lithuania — 18
Latvia — 17
Italy — 16
Bulgaria — 15
Cyprus — 15
Hungary — 15
Malta — 15
Greece 14
Portugal — 13
Romania — 12

Non-smokers: Percentage of people who have never smoked.

Portugal — 64
Malta — 59
Romania — 58
Italy — 57
Czech Republic — 55
Cyprus — 53
Luxembourg — 53
Slovakia — 53
Sweden — 53
Finland — 52
Lithuania — 52
Slovenia — 50
Belgium — 49
Denmark — 49
EU average — 49
Germany — 49
Ireland — 49
Estonia — 47
Hungary — 47
Latvia — 47
UK — 47
Bulgaria — 46
Poland — 45
Greece 44
Spain — 44
Netherlands — 43
Austria — 43
France — 41

Cigarette consumption

On the whole, men smoke more than women, younger smokers consume less, and those who are self-employed or earning less money smoke more. A majority 80 percent of smokers prefer manufactured cigarettes to hand-rolled cigarettes, cigars or pipes.

Number of cigarettes smoked per day

Cyprus — 21.7
Greece 21.4
Austria — 17.7
Slovenia — 17.2
Luxembourg — 17.2
Malta — 16.3
Hungary — 16.3
Ireland — 16.0
Bulgaria — 15.8
Belgium — 15.7
Portugal — 15.5
Poland —  15.3
Romania — 15.0
Germany — 14.7
UK — 14.6
Denmark — 14.6
EU average — 14.4
Netherlands — 14.2
Spain — 13.9
Czech Republic — 13.9
Slovakia — 13.5
Estonia — 13.3
Latvia — 13.1
Italy — 13.0
Finland — 12.8
Lithuania — 12.6
France — 12.2
Sweden — 10.1

Attempts to Quit

Percentage of respondents who tried to quit smoking in the past 12 months.

Lithuania — 47
Estonia — 43
Latvia — 43
Poland — 40
Finland — 38
Romania — 38
Ireland — 35
Sweden — 34
Malta — 33
UK — 32
Cyprus — 29
Slovakia — 29
Denmark — 29
Slovenia — 29
Belgium — 28
EU average — 28
Bulgaria — 28
Hungary — 28
Luxembourg — 27
France — 26
Netherlands — 25
Germany — 25
Spain — 23
Italy — 23
Czech Republic — 22
Austria — 21
Greece 17
Portugal — 17

Greece not only has the lowest incidence of smokers trying to quit, but the percentage has nearly halved since 2006 when 30 percent tried kicking the habit.

Second-Hand Smoke Exposure

Countries where non-smokers were most tolerant of smoking in the home and car also showed higher rates of cigarette consumption.

Exposure in the Home: Percentage of homes where smoking is allowed in all or some rooms.

Bulgaria — 84
Romania — 83
Austria — 82
Greece 82
Poland — 80
Spain — 77
Denmark — 76
Belgium — 74
Latvia — 74
Cyprus — 74
Italy — 73
Netherlands — 73
EU average — 70
Estonia — 69
Portugal — 68
UK — 68
Hungary — 67
Czech Republic — 66
Slovakia — 62
France — 61
Ireland — 60
Malta — 59
Luxembourg — 58
Germany — 58
Slovenia — 55
Latvia — 54
Sweden — 33
Finland — 13

Exposure at Work: Percentage of non-smoking workers who are exposed to second-hand smoke in the workplace for more than five (5) hours a day.

Greece 19
Cyprus — 13
Austria — 11
Hungary — 10
Spain — 10
Bulgaria — 9
Malta — 7
Poland — 7
Romania — 7
Estonia — 5
EU average — 5
France — 5
Germany — 5
Lithuania — 5
Belgium — 4
Latvia — 4
Luxembourg — 4
Slovakia — 4
Czech Republic — 3
Denmark — 3
Slovenia — 3
Ireland — 2
Netherlands — 2
Portugal — 2
UK — 2
Finland — 1
Italy — 1
Sweden — 1

Exposure in the Car: Percentage of non-smokers who never allow smoking while driving or riding in a car.

Finland — 78
Sweden — 76
Luxembourg — 71
Germany — 70
Slovenia — 66
Netherlands — 65
Czech Republic — 59
Denmark — 59
France — 59
Belgium — 58
Ireland — 58
UK — 58
Austria — 57
Italy — 54
EU average — 52
Slovakia — 52
Cyprus — 50
Estonia — 48
Malta — 45
Portugal — 43
Poland — 39
Lithuania — 34
Spain — 34
Latvia — 34
Hungary — 32
Greece 24
Romania — 21
Bulgaria — 17

Exposure at eating establishments: The incidence of smoking in restaurants is lowest in countries where bans are enforced.

Percentage of patrons who encountered people smoking in the last six months:

Cyprus — 92
Bulgaria — 89
Spain — 85
Netherlands — 75
Greece — 72
Austria — 70
Czech Republic — 63
Romania — 57
Poland — 43
Hungary — 42
Slovakia — 30
EU average — 30
Belgium — 20
Malta — 18
Portugal — 17
Germany — 18
Latvia — 16
Denmark — 14
Estonia — 12
Luxembourg — 12
France — 12
Finland — 10
Sweden — 10
Lithuania — 10
Italy — 10
UK — 9
Slovenia — 5
Ireland — 4

Smoking Ban Hot line

Residents wishing to ask questions about the smoking ban or report a violation can call the dedicated hot line at ‘1142’ from anywhere in Greece.


Πρωταθλητές στο κάπνισμα οι Έλληνες” — Eleftherotypia
Eurobarometer (EB 72.3): Special Survey on Tobacco 332” —
“One-third of EU citizens still smoke” — WSJ/AP (link removed)
Blanket smoking ban in cards” — eKathimerini

In the News

Complete ban by Sept 1 but workplaces with 300 employees will be granted eight-month transition period” — Eleftherotypia
Σφίγγει ο κλοιός για τους καπνιστές” — Ta Nea
Smoking kills 20,000 smokers and 700 second-hand smokers each year in Greece” — AP
Θεριακλήδες είναι οι αυριανοί γιατροί” — Eleftherotypia
Greece to ban smoking Sept 1 in indoor public places” — Reuters
Smoking ban to start Jan 1, 2010” — eKathimerini


  betabug wrote @ June 1st, 2010 at 10:25

I’ve heard part of this on the radio some days ago already. What I strongly objected (both on the radio and in your title) is the usage of the word πρωταθλητές / champions. There’s nothing to win there and this word is putting a wrong spirit on the matter. We’re just the losers of the bunch.

Thanks for your article though.

Kat Reply:

My title was changed a full hour before you left your comment. I just looked at your blog feed, and it didn’t update; and it seems you didn’t read the title upon landing on this page. Thanks though.

I assume you called the radio station and stated the same objection?

  EllasDevil wrote @ June 1st, 2010 at 12:03

I’m not a smoker so this new attempt at a smoking ban will not affect me.

I actually think they will enforce it this time because (1) the government is already unpopular due to the economic measures being implemented and (2) they could really do with the money from the fines finding their way into the state coffers.

I do wonder though what reaction this new ban will cause.

Kat Reply:

I’m not a smoker either, but I suppose I am if second-hand smoke is counted. I used to be one of those people exposed to more than 5 hours a smoke a day at work.

What you say is true about enforcing it this time. My vote of confidence for implementation only extends as far as, “Tha doume.”

  betabug wrote @ June 1st, 2010 at 12:05

Kat, no worries about anybodies fault, I’m happy that you changed that title! (My blog feed updates only once each 24 hours.) I’m the more happy since it means you noticed the same thing about the use of that word.

Note from Kat: The ‘back story’ is a I started the post last Friday, threw in a translation, finished the post last night and forgot to edit the final title before publishing because I was tired after tediously arranging stats.

  Maria wrote @ June 1st, 2010 at 17:04

For what it’s worth, as a native Greek speaker, I’ve always interpreted the use of that word in the specific phrase to be sarcastic (and therefore, appropriate in that indeed, being first in smoking is nothing to be proud of). I didn’t see it as offensive.

Kat Reply:

You make an excellent point. In Eleftherotypia, what you say is illustrated, i.e., “Πρωταθλητές στην ακρίβεια” or “Πρωταθλητές στη διαφθορά νοσοκομεία, πολεοδομίες και εφορίες.” Obviously, being “champions of expensive” is not a victory.

I changed the title away from “champs” not because I found it objectionable. I changed it because it made more sense to match the title to the content.

Thank you for your input as a native speaker, something I will never be.

[…] et la Serbie forment également de véritables oasis pour fumeurs, mais pas autant que la Grèce, championne européenne de la cigarette – une réalité qui n’est pas près de changer, compte tenu du moral actuel du […]

  Maria wrote @ June 5th, 2010 at 18:04

Even though you’re not a native speaker, you have a very deep understanding of the Greek psyche and what life is truly like in Greece, more so than many native residents! Your site, your writings and your Twitter feed are all top-notch. Keep up the great work.

Kat Reply:

I’m deeply touched by your compliment and encouragement. Thank you apo tin kardia mou :)

  maria wrote @ June 6th, 2010 at 00:47

i’ve been really lucky so far throughout my years in greece to have avoided smoky work places – everyone where i work (staff of about 100) goes outside to smoke, except the boss, which i guess says something about the power he holds in the institute (his room reeks of smoke)

before the ban i hardly ever went to cafes, mainly becos of the smoking; and becos i cannot tolerate the smell of smoke, i still hardly ever go to indoor cafes, becos i find that – even after the ban was introduced – there is still a place in the cafe that is reserved for smokers, and the smoke eventually travels to the non-smokers’ area; i have recently seen bank tellers smoking in the ethniki trapeza, as if it is their right to do this, showing complete disregard for the ban

the only time i am exposed to avid smokers in a public setting is when i am examining students in their oral english exams – a lot of the other examiners (all women) smoke, and they are greek-origin native speakers of english (therefore they were born/raised outside of greece); they never ask others if it is ok if they smoke, and they disregard all the signs that show smoking is banned in the room – i think this shows how much smoking is tolerated in other places, almost certainly public spaces; i honestly would have expected these women to be more sensitive and ask before lighting up, becos i thought they would remember this act of politeness from their pre-greece days, but this isnt the case

as for the new ban that has been announced, i would agree with kat: tha doume

  Shannon wrote @ June 12th, 2010 at 04:52

I’m a former smoker and it KILLED me to quit. It took over 10 tries and I actually had to go on a medication and the patch. I had a deep and abiding love for smokes, coffee, good conversations over wine and plumes of smoke. I think I always felt more like “me” when smoking because it was just so much a part of who I was.

So thus said – I write really wtihout judgement on smokers because I’ve been there, done that.

Smoking all in all seems very inclusive in Greece. It is very much a part of the culture. I am shuddering right now because I’m there in June/July and will have to deal with a smoking grandparent that I cannot really give the boot outside to because it is his house. When I go to a playground there will be gobs of smoke around.

And for two weeks I’m going to have to SHHHHHHH the kids as they go WHY IN THE HECK ARE THEY SMOKING!!! IT STINKS AND IT IS KILLING THEM.

So though I am very excited to visit Greece as usual, this is one issue that gives me dread every visit.

And Greece… SUCKS to be an ex-smoker that probably would still smoke if she didn’t have kids. You are the one country where everybody is sucking the smokes down with happy enjoyment. I loved visiting there is a smoker because I could do things like oh……smoke after dinner. Smoke in the airport. Smoke in a car. Pretty much everywhere except the hospital. I was a smoking, smokey smoker there. Now it is angst to dodge all the smoke! It is my payback for all the non-smokers I polluted when I was a smoker!!!

  vouksis wrote @ June 24th, 2010 at 13:22

I seriously doubt that a smoking ban will ever be effectively applied in Greece. How I wish that was not the case though.

Last time I went to a cafeteria in Greece during winter was January 2009. After i left, I stank from top to bottom of smoke; I had to wash my clothes and take a shower afterward to get the stink off. It’s absolutely terrible, and needless to say I am a tolerant person and don’t really mind if a person opposite me smokes.

Kat Reply:

Like you, I consider myself tolerant. But I once had a job where 75 employees sat in the same room and smoked from 7:00 to 20:00 without the windows open. Because the bosses were protected in glass enclosures, the 10 of us who were non-smokers inhaled second-hand smoke for 8-10 hours a day. So when you say stink, I know what you mean. I fell ill for a month until my body finally acclimated to the amount of smoke I inhaled, which is of course not a good thing. After a year, I quit and worked in a non-smoking environment.

  karen wrote @ June 24th, 2010 at 19:43

I regularly swim at the indoor swimming pool in Glyfada run by the Dimos. In the small office where I pay, it is always smokey and smelly. Sometimes they leave the door open so all that smoke comes in the area where the pool is, so we are exposed to smoke while trying to exercise! I called the number 1142 to complain twice but the smoking has continued. A total lack of respect and a total disregard for some of us who are trying to exercise, not to mention kids in the kiddie pool.

Kat Reply:

Hey, nice to see you here again!

Good to know they’re taking complaints seriously at the hot line. I could easily blame non-implementation and lack of enforcement, but people know better and can show some restraint and common sense.

  Sanja wrote @ August 16th, 2010 at 16:31

The biggest shock was to see people in Greece smoking in banks, shops, even pharmacies. That doesn’t happen even here in Bosnia, and I thought we were the worst :)

Kat Reply:

I’ve seen people smoking in Greek hospitals also, right under the ‘No Smoking’ sign. Let’s hope the September 1 ban on smoking is more clearly defined and implemented this time.

  abdullah wrote @ April 30th, 2013 at 09:38

i’m comming for you

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