Bulgarian Parliament’s economy committee rejects move to ease total smoking ban

An attempt to backtrack on Bulgaria’s total ban on smoking in enclosed spaces in restaurants, bars and other public places has failed in Parliament’s committee on the economy, a few days after a similar attempt was defeated in the health committee.

Appearing before the committee on the economy, Health Minister Desislava Atanasova – who has been adamant in opposing any reversal of the ban that came into effect in June 2012 – cited public health reasons and said that the attempt to get rid of the ban through legislation on tourism was a violation of the constitutional principles governing the adoption of laws.

Atanasova told the committee that lifting or easing the ban also was opposed by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and President Rossen Plevneliev.

Earlier, Plevneliev said that if Parliament approved legislation easing the ban, he would veto it.

Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Delyan Dobrev spoke in favour of a more flexible approach to easing the ban, saying that while personally he preferred non-smoking environments, Bulgaria’s hotel and restaurant industry had been hard-hit by the law.

“The Health Minister’s position is understandable – she takes care of people’s health. I take care of businesses’ health,” Dobrev said.

The full ban was not working and neither was state control of it, said committee chairperson Martin Dimitrov, quoted by local news agency Focus. Those who obeyed the ban were going bankrupt, he said.

Emil Dimitrov, the ruling party MP who tabled the amendments on easing the ban, said that there should not be discrimination. There was no reason to send smokers out into the cold, as the previous law respected equally the rights of smokers and non-smokers.

Ramadan Atalay, of the minority Movement for Rights and Freedoms, rejected claims that the ban discriminated against smokers. He said that there had been no analysis of how the ban affected society.

Kornelia Ninova, of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, was quoted by Focus as supporting easing the ban, saying that neither increases in the excise duty on cigarettes nor the full ban on smoking in enclosed public places had reduced the rate of smoking.

(Photo: Gabriella Fabbri/ sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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