Bulgaria’s Economy Minister supports ‘flexibility’ on smoking ban

Bulgarian Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Delyan Dobrev says that his ministry supports “flexibility” on the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces.

Speaking ahead of a December 18 2012 meeting of Parliament’s committee on the economy, scheduled to discuss amendments proposed by a member of the ruling party to the law that came into effect in June 2012 banning smoking in enclosed public spaces such as restaurants and bars, Dobrev said that he supported the repeal of the prohibition but not a return to the system of separate non-smoking and smoking areas.

Dobrev said that “as far as I know, the members of the committee have some fresh ideas to be discussed today”.

The amendments were put to the committee on the economy by Ivan Bozhilov, an MP for ruling party GERB, on the same day that Parliament’s health committee voted unanimously against lifting the outright ban to return to the pre-June 2012 system.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Health Minister Desislava Atanasova are among those who have spoken out against the ban. President Rosen Plevneliev, who was elected in 2011 on the ticket of the ruling party, has said that if Parliament approved any legislation backtracking on the smoking ban, he would veto it.

Debate in the committee on the economy was postponed to December 18 to give the economy and health committees opportunity to comment.

Businesses who want the outright ban removed say that it has harmed their trade. Ahead of last week’s health committee meeting, a poll said that significant numbers of smokers had stopped going to bars and restaurants came into effect. However, those who support a continuation of the ban say that the downturn in trade in a result of Bulgarians’ diminished disposable income and say that public health must be paramount over other considerations.

Dobrev, in a television interview, said that he had spoken with representatives of the tourism industry and had been told that their earnings were “tragic” this year compared with last year. He said that he saw their difficulties.

“I am inclined to support tourism and small and medium enterprises. However, I feel better in places of entertainment where there is no smoking,” Dobrev said.

(Photo amr safey/sxc.hu)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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