Bulgarian MPs table bill to repeal smoking ban

Two Bulgarian MPs tabled on September 28 a bill of amendments to the Health Act that would repeal the ban on smoking in indoor public spaces and certain outdoor areas, which went into effect on June 1.

The bill’s authors, Kiril Goumnerov and Stoyan Ivanov, who are not affiliated to any parliamentary group, said that they wanted a return to the status quo before the introduction of the ban – all establishments larger than 70 sq m would have to have separate smoking and non-smoking areas, while smaller establishments would have the choice to be either fully-smoking or non-smoking.

Separately, night clubs would become fully smoking establishments, regardless of their size, but no underage customers should be allowed on their premises, according to the bill’s provisions.

The rationale for the bill, the authors said, is that with the summer season nearly over, restaurants would be hit especially hard by the ban during the winter months, leading to as many as 30 000 people in the hospitality industry being laid off.

Should the bill pass, the MPs plan to follow up with another set of amendments – one would be to increase taxes on smoking establishments, while at the same time lowering them for non-smoking ones; the other proposal is to write into law that all tobacco and cigarette excise duties are to be spent on health care.

Earlier this week, a restaurant owners association said that the hospitality industry saw its revenues cut in half since the ban went into effect. The Health Ministry countered saying that the ban was a progressive measure and it was too soon to assess the impact of the ban on the restaurant business.

News website mediapool.bg reported that MPs in the ruling party and the opposition were likely to back the bill, provided party leaderships chose not to make a big deal of it.

“It will be smokers against non-smokers, unless at the last minute it is decided that we should not be passing such a measure before the elections,” one unnamed MP was quoted as saying. Bulgaria is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in the summer of 2013.

(Photo: Ninja Dave/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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