Bulgaria’s Health Ministry has no intention of easing the ban on smoking indoors in public places, nor of widening anti-smoking laws, but is working on legislative changes to make the indoor smoking ban more effective.
Replying to questions in Parliament, Health Minister Petar Moskov said that the ban on smoking indoors in public places – such as restaurants, bars and hotels, that came into law in June 2012 – was frequently broken.
The Health Ministry received multiple complaints about the ban being violated, Moskov said.
He said that one of the problems was the lack of a clear definition in the law of what constituted an indoor public place.
The current definition, in translation, is that an indoor public place is a “closed room or space that is covered by a roof /canopy and where there are at least three solid walls, regardless of the material used for the roof and walls, and regardless of whether the structure is permanent or temporary”.
Moskov told Parliament on February 17 that in the period January 1 to December 4 2014, regional health inspectorates carried out 184 528 day and night checks of 182 791 sites, including at weekends.
The fines handed out added up to 394 800 leva.
Over the same period, regional health inspectorates received 1238 telephone calls complaining of breaches of the ban on smoking indoors in public places. Each of these calls had been followed up by on-site inspections, leading to the issuing of 370 fines.
Moskov said that the law on smoking must be refined, and confirmed that the Health Ministry was working on a project to possibily impose new excise duties on certain foods containing harmful trans fatty acids, as well as salt, sugar and caffeine above certain limits.
He said that these issues should not be considered separately but should be put on the table together as part of an overall strategy to improve public health.
After Bulgaria’s June 2012 law against smoking in enclosed public places came into effect, there have been periodic attempts by political parties and lobby groups to get it rolled back. Draft amendment legislation has been tabled twice in two successive parliaments, and was defeated both times.