The District Court in the Bulgarian city of Rousse has upheld a 3000 leva (about 1500 euro) fine imposed on the owner of a restaurant for repeated breaches of the law against smoking in enclosed public places, local media said on March 18 2014.
The ruling is subject to appeal in Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court.
The fine was imposed in November 2013 after health inspectors twice found people smoking in the indoor hall of the restaurant.
The owner responded that he had told his staff not to allow people to smoke, arguing that he had complied with the law and it was individuals who had broken the law. The court rejected this argument and upheld the fine, noting that there had been a second offence.
The head of the regional health inspectorate in Rousse, Dr Margarita Nikolova, said that in the 2013, the inspectorate had imposed 136 penalties on individuals, totalling 42 150 leva and 27 fines on companies, totalling 76 000 leva.
She said that on occasion, there had been attempts to assault health inspectors, but these had been stopped after police were called to intervene.
In March 2014, two of Bulgaria’s major television stations, Bulgarian National Television and bTV, have shown news reports exposing breaches of the ban on smoking indoors at public places.
The law against smoking in enclosed public places came into force in Bulgaria in June 2012. Attempts to amend the legislation to backtrack on the ban, tabled in Parliament in 2012 and in 2013, came to nothing. Polls have shown that most Bulgarians support the indoor smoking ban.
According to official statistics, from June 2012 to the end of October 2013, the state has imposed a total of 883 523 leva in fines for breaking the law on smoking in enclosed public places such as restaurants and bars.
However, of this sum, only 41 per cent – about 364 175 leva – had been collected, it was reported in early 2014.
The fine for an individual who smokes indoors in a public place is 300 to 500 leva, and from 500 to 1000 leva for a repeat offence.
(Photo: Romana Ferrer)