Bulgaria - full smoking ban in force for 3-days officially abolished..

June 4, 2010 - After being in force just for three days, the full smoking ban, adopted by the previous parliament, is officially abolished as of June 4. (Bulgaria - confusion over which public smoking ban is in force..)

The amendments to the Health Act, which introduce more liberal rules for smoking in public spaces, have been promulgated [to put (a law) into action or force] in the Friday's edition of the State Gazette.

The actual introduction of the eased smoking regime however will be only after three months, during which the Council of Ministers must issue their own order specifying the rules for smoking in public spaces.

Under amendments that Bulgaria's parliament adopted last month smoking will be allowed in separate smoking spaces inside restaurants, bars, coffee shops, railroad stations, airports, ports, and bus stations. The owners of restaurants, clubs and coffee shops with an area less than 50 square meters, should decide if smoking would be allowed. Other notable changes include permitting employees to smoke during working hours, provided it is in a place set up for that purpose. In effect, the provisions extend the existing status quo, which was due to change with the introduction of the ban on smoking in public places.

The draft legislation surprisingly managed to fuse the ruling center-right GERB with the main opposition Socialist Party. The ad hoc coalition claimed that the proposed relaxation of a ban on smoking in all public places would avoid hurting the tourist industry during tough economic times. The reason for the ban's qualification, according to reports, was that many proprietors, hoteliers, restaurant and bar owners had claimed that the full ban would have hit business, worsening the impact of the economic crisis.

Similar measures were imposed as part of a partial smoking ban in 2005 but have been widely ignored.

On May 31, Bulgaria's ruling party GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) said it would push for further measures against smoking, measures which would target advertising of cigarettes and other tobacco products. According to the head of the parliamentary health care committee, Luchezar Ivanov, a list of locations would be prepared where cigarettes may be advertised in the future. Currently in Bulgaria, it is forbidden to advertise cigarettes, but it is permitted to advertise the brand of the product, according to Doctor Masha Gavrailova, head of the public health care department within the Health Ministry. Cigarette advertising is also banned on television and radio. But these new restrictions still marked a serious step down from the full smoking ban some expected to see in place from the beginning of June.

References: Eased Smoking Ban Comes into Force in Bulgaria, Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency), 6/4/2010; Eased regulations on smoking introduced in Bulgaria by Nick Iliev, the Sofia Echo, 6/4/2010.

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