Thousands sign online petition against backtracking on Bulgaria’s smoking ban

More than 26 000 people had signed an online petition against backtracking on Bulgaria’s full ban on smoking in restaurants and bars, media reports on May 28 said, a day after the hotel and restaurant association revived its campaign to ease the ban following signals from the proposed government that it was willing to go back to the old system.

A full ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces including restaurants and bars came into effect in Bulgaria in June 2012, replacing the previous system of separate smoking and non-smoking sections.

The hotel and restaurant association campaigned against the ban, saying that it was causing serious damage to the industry, but attempts to get Parliament to agree to revert to the previous system failed.

After Plamen Oresharski, the socialist nominee to be Bulgaria’s next prime minister – and a smoker – said on May 27 that he was willing to change the smoking ban system, the association immediately went to see him to discuss the issue. Previously, during its campaign ahead of the May 12 parliamentary elections, the Bulgarian Socialist Party said that it would support a reversion to the previous system.

The hotel and restaurant association said that the ban had cost 150 000 jobs since June 2012.

But by May 28, thousands had signed up to support a group to demand that the ban on smoking in restaurants should remain in place.

In January 2013, a survey by Bulgaria’s National Centre for the Study of Public Opinion found that 61 per cent of those surveyed supported the full ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.

Those keenest to support the ban included women, people older than 59, people with higher education, those with relatively high incomes and residents of rural areas.

Those most opposed to the ban were men aged between 40 and 49 and residents of small towns.

The ban was supported by 86 per cent of those surveyed who had never smoked, 75 per cent of former smokers and a third of smokers.

(Photo, of a protest outside Bulgaria’s Parliament in December 2012 against easing the smoking ban: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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