Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has spoken out against a backtrack on the country’s full ban on smoking in enclosed public places such as restaurants and bars and also opposes a national referendum on the issue.
Plevneliev’s comments on June 5 2013 came against a background of the Bulgarian Socialist Party government that took office on May 29 indicating readiness to retreat on the ban, now in force for just more than a year.
Socialist MPs who are backing amendments to the law have said that it could reach first-reading stage in Parliament as early as the week starting June 10. Others in socialist circles have suggested holding a national referendum on the question, perhaps at the same time as Bulgaria’s vote in the May 2014 European Parliament elections.
Plevneliev said that there was no real reason nor a logical explanation why a well-executed reform should be changed.
“Let us set an example as a real European country. Let us be responsible towards Bulgaria’s coming generations,” he said.
Plevneliev, since taking office in January 2012, has been an advocate of referendums as direct democracy, but dismissed the idea of one on the smoking ban as a waste of money. Bulgaria’s January 2013 referendum cost about 20 million leva (about 10 million euro).
In 2012, when campaigners demanded a backtrack on the ban and draft amendment legislation was put to the parliamentary committees on health and on the economy, Plevneliev indicated that if such legislation was approved, he would use his constitutional right of veto.
The constitution gives the President a limited right of veto. In the event of the head of state referring legislation back to the National Assembly, Bulgaria’s unicameral Parliament, the veto may be overturned by a simple majority of MPs.
Separately, the Ministry of Health said that in the year since June 1 2012 when the full ban on smoking in enclosed public places came into force, 1040 fines had been issued, totalling 668 150 leva.
Between June 1 2012 and May 31 2013, regional health inspectors conducted a total of 215 207 checks at places during the country, day and night.
Several places were checked more than once to establish whether breaches of the law had been corrected.
There were close to 43 000 inspections of eating places, 25 593 inspections of schools and kindergartens and 50 715 inspections at health facilities. Other places inspected included railway stations, bus stations, banks, office buildings, public toilets, shopping centres, theatres and cinemas, hotels and motels, gambling halls, barbers, hairdressers and beauty salons, fitness centres, swimming pools, hostels, old-age homes and internet cafes.
The ministry said that there had been 2708 inspections at outdoor public places, including areas adjacent to kindergartens and playgrounds, sports facilities and cultural events.
The most violations of the ban were found in, respectively, Sofia, Plovdiv, Dobrich, Varna and Blagoevgrad.