Bulgaria has been one of the most popular tourist destinations for many years due to moderate prices and lack or restrictions. However, things were about to change for smoking tourists as Bulgarian government adopted a strict ban on smoking in public places. However, it is just a beginning of the story which caught the headlines across the European Union.
Still, just three days after the implementation of the comprehensive nationwide ban on smoking in public places approved by the previous parliament, on June 4 it was officially cancelled.
The amended State Health Act that features more liberal regulations on lighting up in public places has been published in the latest issue of the State Gazette, official newspaper of Bulgarian Parliament.
The new smoking policy will be implemented within three months after publishing in the official newspaper, as it should be adopted by the Council of Ministers that shall specify the new regulations for smoking in public.
In conformity with the new State Health Act approved by the new Bulgarian Parliament, smoking shall be permitted in specially designated areas of eating and drinking establishments, like bars and restaurants, airports and bus stations. In addition, owners of venues with an area less than 50 square meters shall decide whether to make their venue completely smoke-free or allow smoking. Under the law the employees are allowed to light up in work-places only if there is a place designated for smoking.
The amended ban on smoking in public places is nothing new for Bulgarian smokers, since it doesn’t differ from the regulation which had been valid until the three-day smoking ban entered into effect.
The amended measure was surprisingly passed by the ruling center-right party, Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) being opposed by Socialist Party.
The major reason for amending the ban was the concern of the representatives of ruling party that it would hurt the economy and tourist sector, which has already been hit dramatically by the economic crisis. The officials were influenced by the coalition of hoteliers and restaurateurs who stated that a comprehensive ban would worsen the difficult economic situation.
Similar regulations were implemented in 2005 as part of prior smoking ban, but they were usually flouted.
Last week, Bulgarian government declared it would consider other regulations aimed at reducing smoking rates in the country, where smokers account for more than 40% of adult male population. Luchezar Ivanov, chairman of public health committee in the Bulgarian Parliament, said they would restrict tobacco advertisements and elaborate a list of places where tobacco ads should not be placed.
Currently, cigarette ads are prohibited on TV and radio, and the introduction of additional restrictions is a compensation for the abolishment of stricter smoking ban; however, anti-tobacco advocates admit they would seek returning the measure.