Bulgaria - to loosen smoking ban to start June 1, 2010..

April 30, 2010 - Bulgaria's parliament started on Friday, April 16th to debate at first reading of the ruling-party proposal to water down a new smoking ban in the country.

The new Bulgarian Health Minister Anna-Maria Borisova backed parliament's decision to loosen up smoking ban in public places in Bulgaria. A majority of 85 Bulgarian MPs (members of parliament) voted Wednesday, April 28th in favor of the motion to ease ban on smoking in all indoor public places (53 MPs were against the proposal while 5 abstained from voting).

Borisova commented on parliament's vote by saying that the all-out smoking ban in public places must be relaxed due to the present socio-political climate in Bulgaria and that “ though medical experts are against smoking, a compromise needs to be reached”.

Last week, when Borisova was appointed Bulgaria's new health minister following the resignation of Minister Nanev over accusations that he has concluded unfavorable for the state deals, Borisova expressed her strong opposition against smoking in public places.

When first discussing the issue the new health minister said that “all over the civilized world smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, is banned.” She was firm on her stand that “Bulgaria should follow the example of France where people are allowed to smoke only in the streets.” The ban on smoking in all public places in Bulgaria is set to be enforced June 1, 2010.

However, the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) Cabinet has come up with a proposal to relax the all-out smoking ban. The draft amendments of the Health Act on easing the much anticipated all-out public smoking ban has surprisingly managed to bring together the ruling center-right GERB with the main opposition Socialist Party.

The ad hoc coalition claims that the proposed relaxation of a ban on smoking in all public places would avoid hurting the tourist industry during tough economic times.

Under the proposed changes the owners of restaurants, clubs and coffee shops with an area less than 100 square meters, should decide if smoking would be allowed, while for larger establishments there must be a well-isolated smoking space.

The full ban is to remain effective for all other public spaces. Similar measures were imposed as part of a partial smoking ban in 2005 but have been widely ignored.

References: Bulgaria Health Minister: Smoking Ban Relaxation Unavoidable, Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency), 4/28/2010; Bulgaria MPs Loosen Up Smoking Ban on 1st Read, Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency), 4/28/2010.

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