Bulgaria’s beleaguered government quietly backtracking on easing smoking ban

Ahead of the May 2013 parliamentary elections, Bulgaria’s socialist party promised that if it came into power, it would ease the full ban on smoking on public places – but now, deeply unpopular and the target of nationwide daily protests demanding its resignation, the party appears to be quietly backtracking on the issue.

Its abortive appointment of controversial figure Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security already having triggered a huge backlash against a government formed with the support of a coterie of minority parties, the government presumably may want not further trouble by offending anti-smoking groups.

In late 2012, when there were attempts to backtrack on the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants that had come into effect in June last year, large-scale protests helped to dissuade the then-parliament from approving the amendments.

The socialists’ plans to change the law were headline-makers in the early days of the administration. The familiar battle lines were drawn, between those arguing for the continuation of the full ban on the grounds of national health issues, while those wanting it diluted arguing that the full ban was financially harmful to the hospitality industry in Bulgaria.

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(Photo: Leah Sawyer)