Quitting Smoking in Bulgaria: No We Can’t

Written by on December 22, 2016 in Bulgaria, Latest - No comments

The rate of 15-year-old girls who smoke in Bulgaria is the highest in all of Europe, a recent study showed. Later in life, when they are adults, especially Bulgarian men smoke like crazy.

While the Socialists ran their last Bulgarian government for a few months, there was an attempt to reverse the smoking ban for public places such as restaurants. It might have failed, but many restaurants are either breaking the law by letting their guests smoke late in the evening, or they build huge patios with glass walls and ceilings, in which their guests smoke as if their lives depended on it, although the opposite is the case.

Anti-smoking book by Prof. Petar Andonov

Bus and tram drivers might not be allowed to do so anymore, but some smoke while steering their vehicles through Sofia. The same applies to taxi drivers. This means, commuters are subject to second hand smoke, even though they should not be, according to the law. This adds to the negative effects of the polluted air inhabitants of Sofia and other Bulgarian cities are breathing every single day.

Everywhere in Sofia, employees of businesses meet in front of their businesses for a smoke or two. At the Business Park, where tens of thousands of people work in IT and outsourcing businesses, those huge ashtrays mounted to walls and benches everywhere, are usually full. What do bored shop assistants do? They smoke. The same applies to editors. To everyone, actually.

There are scenes which are hard to watch as well. In summer, some mothers blow their smoke into the faces of their babies, toddlers and bigger children, while sitting at restaurant tables. This probably happens in homes as well. In Western Europe, this kind of behaviour was seen in the 1960-s and 1970-s, but not anymore. Yes, the second hand smoke issue is definitely worse on the Balkan peninsula. So is the first hand smoke issue. Studies say that, within the European Union, only the Greek smoke more than the Bulgarians.

Awareness might be the key. Too many Bulgarians either do not know about the serious consequences smoking can have, or they do not care much. In the late 1980-s, at the end of the Socialist times, Bulgaria’s Deputy Health Minister Prof. Petar Andonov wrote the first anti-smoking book in this country. The release was definitely a step in the right direction, but not too many smokers wanted to know about the problems they were causing for both themselves and others, just like today.

There is another aspect which makes quitting harder down here. The prices are far too low. While Britons supposedly pay the equivalent of 7 or 8 Euro per pack and the Germans pay 5 to 6 Euro, the price tag for a pack of cigarettes in Bulgaria is 2 to 2.50 Euro. These kinds of prices will not scare people away from cigarettes, not even in the poorest E.U. country.

Who or what would make more smokers quit? Maybe a huge awareness campaign, increased prices and more smoking bans. Also, they should be talking about smoking at schools, in a serious way.

The author of these lines, who has smoked for several decades, managed to quit this year, by switching to electronic cigarettes first. If I can, you can. So, yes, we can.

By Imanuel Marcus

Photo of cigarette pack by Imanuel Marcus.




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