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Greece : smoking may be good for the state

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Between public health and public finances, the Greek government Friday tried to split the difference, allowing smoking in some nightclubs and casinos in exchange for paying a special tax. 

A law passed last year had banned smoking in nightclubs and casinos — a move to discourage the cigarette habit in a country that holds the European record for smokers.

In reality, however, the ban is daily violated in Greek cafes and restaurants.

On Friday the ministries of health and finance issued a statement saying that night clubs and casinos of more than 300 square metres (3,230 square feet) could set aside “half that space” for smokers, if they pay a tax of 200 euros ($270) per square metre annually.

The first payment must be made by November 30, in a bid to feed the public coffers before wrapping up the 2011 budget, as debt-mired Greece faces an European audit to secure the next payment of an EU-IMF bailout needed to avoid default.

Athens, Sept 30, 2011 (AFP)