Amendments to Bulgaria’s smoking ban to be tabled ‘next week’

Amendments to the Health Act partly reversing Bulgaria’s full ban on smoking in restaurants, bars, hotels and other public places will be tabled in the National Assembly next week, a socialist MP who supports a backtrack on the ban said on June 3 2013.

The legislative campaign to change the law comes just a little more than year after the full ban on smoking in enclosed public places came into effect, and a few days after the Bulgarian Socialist Party government took office.

The BSP and its prime minister, Plamen Oresharski, support a change to the ban, which the restaurant and bar industry say has seriously harmed their businesses.

In 2012, Bulgaria’s hotel and restaurant association campaigned for the law to be changed back to reintroduce the system that was in place before June 1, of separate smoking and non-smoking areas.

Socialist MP Tatyana Burudzhieva, one of the authors of the amendments, said that she expected that the bill would be tabled for a first reading in Parliament next week.

The economic impact of the ban had been 20 million leva in losses, she said. In parallel with the liberalisation of the law, it was envisaged that there would be state programmes to encourage people to stop smoking.

However, fellow socialist MP Martin Zahariev, one of those who met with the hotel and restaurant association after the new government came to power, said that there should be a referendum in May 2014 on allowing smoking indoors in public places.

Whatever Parliament decided, Zahariev said, there would be no peace, because whichever side ended up as the aggrieved party would embark on protests.

Speaking in a panel discussion on local television station bTV, Emil Kolarov of the restaurateurs association said that Bulgaria had 32 000 restaurants “and imagine how many people work there” and besides which, he argued, the health argument was undermined by the fact that while people could not smoke in restaurants, they smoked at home and elsewhere.

Those who support a continuation of the ban, including former health minister Desislava Atanassova, offered economic as well as health arguments, saying that since the ban on smoking indoors in public places had come into force, there had been an increase in foreign tourists visiting Bulgaria.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)




The Sofia Globe staff

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