Bulgarian hospitality industry presses new government for backtrack on smoking ban

Determined to take up the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the party’s prime ministerial candidate Plamen Oresharski on promises to backtrack on the country’s full ban on smoking in public places, the Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association has called for the law to be amended to revert to the system in use before June 2012.

Bulgarian law previously allowed separate smoking and non-smoking areas in enclosed public spaces such as bars and restaurants, but in mid-2012 a law approved by Boiko Borissov’s centre-right government imposed a full ban.

Public protests and a campaign by the hotel and restaurant industry led to amendments to the law being put to the health and economy committees in the previous Parliament, but the attempts came to nothing.

The socialist party, in its campaign ahead of the May 12 elections, promised that if it came to power the previous system would be brought back.

Oresharski, in an interview with a television station on May 27, said that “regretfully” he was a smoker but this did not influence his opinion on the issue.

He said that there was a determination to re-examine the ban on smoking in public places. There was a readiness to do so without making “revolutionary” changes but, Oresharski said, the idea was to find a “balanced solution” which would be acceptable for both non-smokers and smokers.

On May 27, Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association head Blagoy Ragin said that the association wanted an amendment that would allow separate smoking and non-smoking rooms.

Those places that wanted to maintain a full smoking ban at their establishments could do so, in return for “some kind of tax concession, so as to stimulate more colleagues to join the campaign,” local news agency quoted Ragin as saying.

He said that the association would discuss the issue with the socialist party.

Asked to comment on what would happen should non-smokers protest for the retention of the full smoking ban, he said, “let them fill in the state treasury then”.

According to Ragin, in the first five months of the full smoking ban, it had cost the budget 800 million leva (about 400 million euro).

“I am an ardent non-smoker, but as a businessman and a representative of the business I also conform to the conditions of our real economy. It is a matter of businesses’ survival,” Ragin said.

(Photo: Rodrigo Matias/sxc.hu)

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