Macedonia - pressure to ease smoking ban..

January 22, 2010 - A ban on smoking in public places takes effect in Macedonia on January 1, 2010 but some members of parliament (MPs) and the hospitality industry were fighting a last-ditch battle.

SKOPJE, the capital of Republic of Macedonia — Hundreds of cafes, bars and restaurants throughout Macedonia shut their doors to customers on Friday, January 22nd in a 24-hour long protest against a freshly-imposed smoking ban. Along Skopje's the main pedestrian Makedonija avenue, patrons desperately trying to find a spot to have their morning coffee found even the most prestigious cafes closed. Red posters could be seen saying "Democracy is freedom to choose - Give our customers freedom to choose."

Macedonia began the New Year with a ban on smoking in bars, clubs and cafes, introducing harsh fines both for owners of the facilities and the smokers. Under the new regulations, smoking is banned in all locations serving food and drinks, both indoors and outdoors. Under the new law, owners who allow people to smoke on their premises face fines of between euro2,500-euro4,500 (US$3,600 to US$6,465). Customers who violate the ban face fines of euro150-euro300 (US$215-US$430).

Half of the two million population in the former Yugoslav republic are estimated to be smokers with many starting from the age of 14.. Restaurant and bar owners complain that they have seen their incomes drop by between 40 and 70 percent since January and many say they have been forced to sack employees.

They are calling on state authorities to reconsider some of the rules. Unfortunately, the Macedonian government, as a result of the reaction among owners of bars and restaurants, has decided to adopt amendments to the Smoking Protection Act.

Reference: Bars and restaurants in Macedonia shut doors in protest over smoking ban, Agence France-Presse (AFP), 1/22/2010; Macedonian restaurants, cafes, shut down to protest smoking ban, by: The Associated Press, 1/22/2010.

Macedonia related news briefs:
Macedonia - ban on smoking in public places takes effect on January 1, 2010..;
Macedonia - intends banning smoking in restaurants and cafes from January 1 2010..;
Ban on Tobacco advertising in Macedonia starts December 8, 2008..;