Large turnout in Bulgarian capital for protest against full smoking ban in restaurants and bars

There was a large turnout on November 22 2012 for a protest outside Parliament in the Bulgarian capital city Sofia against the law that came into effect in June against a full ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces including bars and restaurants.

The protest was organised by a hotel and restaurant association and on social networks. Organisers object to what they described as the huge financial losses incurred because of the stricter anti-smoking laws.

Groups stood next to empty tables, smoking, with an iron cage was placed outside Parliament. Organisers estimated the number of participants in the protest at 2500.

Theatre director Andrei Slabakov told the crowd: “This law is not linked to health care at all. If they wanted, they would have banned cigarettes totally and would not give subsidies to tobacco producers. Politicians are now acting like a drugs cartel. Nobody wants to smoke in a maternity ward. I do not want to be called a fool and a killer. The cars inSofiakill significantly more people, but nobody will stop them,” he said, quoted by local news agency Focus.

One of the organizers of the protest with the Free Choice Association, Nasko Yankulov, owner of a place of entertainment, said, “I am here not just as an owner of a club, but to try to uncover a huge lie. This law is cynical, because both inBulgariaandEuropethe production of cigarettes is stimulated. Cigarettes are sold everywhere. There is no link between healthcare and smoking ban in night clubs. I want the previous law restored, the way it was before July 1.”

Previous campaigns by restaurant and bar lobby groups, as well as the stated intention by a group of independent MPs to table legislation to revert to the previous law that allowed separate smoking areas in restaurants and bars, have met with a government response that there will no backtracking on the June law.



The Sofia Globe staff

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