Bulgaria has been known as one of the best tourist destinations thanks to pleasant prices, beautiful sights and no restrictions. Nevertheless, this situation was about to change, as the ruling party endorsed a legislation banning smoking in public areas, and making vacations not so happy for smoking tourists. Yet, it was only a beginning of the curios story that shocked anti-smoking groups around the world.
Three days after the legislation, banning smoking in all public places across the nation, was approved by the previous session of parliament, it was officially abolished on June 4.
The parliament decided to amend the ban, introducing several easings of the restrictions revealed in the State Gazette, the official paper of the government.
The amended regulations will enter into effect within 90 days after being published in the official state newspaper, since they also have to be approved by Bulgarian Council of Ministers, a panel, which shall determine the restrictions on smoking in public places.
In accordance with the latest State Health Act ratified by the recently-elected Bulgarian Parliament, smoking will be allowed in certain sections of restaurants and other eating and drinking venues, bus stations and outdoor public areas.
Moreover, the owners of establishments covering an area of 50 square meters and less will have to make a decision whether to become entirely smoke-free or permit lighting up. In conformity with the legislation the personnel is permitted to puff in specially designated smoking rooms.
The latest anti-smoking policy is nothing new and shocking for local smokers and guest of the country, as it has no major difference to the previous legislation which was in place until the three-day-long smoking ban came into force. The country’s ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) voted for amending the measure, shortly after the elections had been carried out.
The primary reason for calling off the stricter smoking ban was the concerns of the members ruling party that the ban would damage the economy and particularly the tourist sector, which has already been hurt significantly by the economic downturn. The lawmakers were impacted by the association of hoteliers and restaurateurs who claimed that a stricter ban would aggravate the difficult economic situation.
Similar legislation was adopted 5 years ago, in 2005, however, it was generally not observed.
On June 13th, Bulgarian government announced it would examine other measures intended for cutting smoking rates across the nation, with 40% of adult male population being regular smokers. Dimitar Ivanov, head Parliamentary public health committee, stated they would limit tobacco advertisements and draw a list of areas where such adverts would be prohibited.
At this moment, adverts of tobacco products are banned on TV and radio, and the introduction of further restrictions is an attempt to offset the comprehensive smoking ban which was called off, but local anti-smoking groups claim they would do their best to return the legislation.