Friday, February 20, 2015

Skotino, Crete’s Non-Smoking Village

This past summer, Greek journalist Foteini Eleftheriou, from the news site visited the village Skotino (meaning “dark” in English) near Heraclion, Crete, to record the unwritten law followed by its residents for the past decades: NO SMOKING.

There is only one resident in the village who smokes from time to time, but the rest of the villagers hope that he will soon follow their example too.

Eleftheriou’s report ranked among the 12 finalists of this year’s European Commission contest on the best article on smoking cessation, which is part of the pan-European campaign, Ex-smokers Are Unstoppable, which is an integral part of the European Union comprehensive tobacco control strategy. Some 394 journalists from all 27 EU Member States took part in the 2012 contest with a total of 557 articles on smoking cessation.

Eleftheriou explains how the few people living in the picturesque Cretan village have gone though their daily routine without smoking a single cigarette for several decades now.

“… It is a village in the far out corner of Europe, but it could set an example for the modern world to follow, because its residents have unanimously decided long ago to abstain from smoking. Their decision to change the unhealthy habit of tobacco smoking with a healthier way of life was not based on some anti-smoking campaign or any prohibition. The approximately 70 residents of Skotino cannot really explain why the met their decision to turn their backs on smoking, but stand up for their common purpose, which has evolved over the years into something of an unwritten law in a country, where 42% of the population smokes, according to a 2009 survey.”

For those in Skotino, abstaining from smoking turned gradually into a way of life, and according to some, it’s been like that for more than 20 years now. “I got married in Skotino about 50 years ago and I remember only two or three old men smoking here before. After they passed away, no one else smoke,” said Christina Moudatsaki, owner of one of the two kafeneia (cafes) in the village.

“Our habit has been passed on to our children and grandchildren, although they do not live here in our village,” she said, adding that her 21-year-old grandson Charis confirms it. “I have friends and acquaintances who smoke, but I do not smoke because I know the bad side effects it has on my health” he said.

Maria Zacharioudaki supports the decision of her fellow villagers to turn their back on smoking. “I never told my children not to smoke. How would they start smoking if they never see their parents smoke?” she wondered. She said her son quit smoking after returning to live in the village.

You can’t even find cigarettes for sale in Skotino. “I owned a kafeneio 15 years ago. I used to sell cigarettes but no one would buy them,”said Dimitris Zervakis, while Yiannis Zacharioudakis quit smoking 51 years ago. “I am 101 years old and I used to smoke from my twenties to my fifties. Then my child got sick and I decided to quit. That’s when my life changed. My health got better and with God’s help I’m doing just fine. I want to tell everyone that smoking is catastrophic and they must understand this” said Zacharioudakis.

Eleftheriou concludes in her report that the way of life of these people is a unique and hopeful counter case to the 650,000 deaths caused by tobacco smoking annually in the EU. Smoking is considered to be one of the main causes for various diseases and disabilities, while it is also one of the most common causes of death.

Greece has passed five no-smoking laws in the last 10 years, all of which have been largely ignored and the government has given up trying to enforce them as Greeks smoke so much they have the highest rate in the EU. The people in Skotino don’t need a law not to smoke.
(Original story in Greek written by Foteini Eleftheriou for

Stela Tsolakidou

Source: Greek Reporter

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