Health Minister Philippos Patsalis on Tuesday announced the launch of an islandwide campaign entitled 'Implementation of the legislation-shield for health' in light of World No Tobacco Day celebrated on May 31.
Speaking at the Ministry yesterday, Patsalis said that the global smoking epidemic kills almost six million people every year, of which more than 600,000 are passive smokers.
"Research shows that if measures are not taken immediately to limit smoking, the epidemic will kill more than eight million people by 2030, of which more than 80% can be prevented," Patsalis said.
The latest figures provided by the Health Ministry's Observation Unit show that in Cyprus in 2012 there were 2,112 deaths from cardiovascular diseases linked to smoking, 394 deaths caused by respiratory diseases linked to smoking and 932 deaths from tumours, also connected to smoking.
According to Patsalis, the increase of anxiety and stress caused by the financial crisis has led to a rise in the number of smokers, while at the same time evidence shows that tight finances is one of the main reasons why people quit smoking.
During a press conference, the Health Ministry announced that it will promote changes to smoking legislation including stricter fines for violators of the ban in indoor public areas.
The new amendment will include a provision to suspend operation of premises which repeatedly violate the smoking ban legislation, the minister said.
The National Committee for monitoring smoking has also announced a new action plan which includes the observation of tendencies in smoking frequency among the population, the protection of the population from smoke and particularly passive smoking, the provision of systematic assistance to quit smoking and information on the harmful effects of smoking on our health.
According to joint research carried out by the University of Harvard and the Cyprus University of Technology in January 2013, the full smoking ban in hotels, restaurants and recreational centres in Cyprus has increased revenue by 6.4%.
Speaking at the press conference yesterday, the Cyprus anti-cancer society non-smokers league called on the public and especially the youth not to start smoking, as World Health Organisation statistics show that the habit kills more than 5.4 million people every year and causes various types of cancer.
Meanwhile, reduced productivity due to smoking in Cyprus is estimated at £100 million a year and expenses to treat patients who are smokers costs £30m a year according to data provided by the Cyprus International Institute and Harvard Medical School.
The anti-cancer society made suggestions to the Health Ministry regarding the amendment of the smoking ban legislation, with provisions including the prohibition of smoking in playgrounds, sporting facilities and camp sites, as well as the creation of designated smoking areas in airports and ports.
Stricter fines for violators and suspension of operation for premises who have repeated violations, as well as more frequent checks at youth hang-outs were also among the association's proposals.
They also suggested the enforcement of full smoking bans at schools, universities, hospitals, markets, medical centres and all closed areas, while they called on full compliance with the European directives.