Bulgaria’s Parliament considers easing the full smoking ban in closed public spaces that was imposed in the country on June 1, according to a local media report….
In November, Bulgarian business representatives, as well as regular citizens assembled in front of the Bulgarian Parliament in Sofia to rally for a lifting of the full smoking ban in closed public spaces.
Bulgaria is consistently ranking among the top 5 European countries in terms of smoking rates, both in the general population and among the young.
It seems that the proposals were rejected, according to this report (complete with photo of cigar-smoking Boyko Borisov) on 18 Dec 2012:
A total of 10 MPs voted in favor of lifting the ban, while 6 were against and 5 abstained from voting.
The lawmakers thus rescued Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who had vowed to resign if the ban was lifted.
Tuesday’s vote was accompanied by two protests in downtown Sofia, one in favor of the ban and one in support of its abolishment.
It doesn’t seem like there were many supporters of the ban.
Low turnout has been reported at the non-smokers rally in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia in protest against the proposed easing of the full ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces, enforced as of June 1.
The Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, reported that about 30-40 people have gathered at the Ariana Lake in the central park Borisova Gradina, mostly young people and children. They all believe that easing the full smoking ban would be a step back of the government.
They demand keeping the ban in force in all restaurants, bars, and coffee shops and oppose “manipulative” calls for its liberalization.
The rally was organized by the Civil Initiative “Bulgaria without Tobacco Smoke.”
Well-known Bulgarian sociology expert, Mira Radeva, joined the demonstration. She said that after prices of cigarettes went up in the country, the share of smokers under the age of 18 has gone down from 43% to 39% in three years, while the full smoking ban fill have 100% effect.
According to her, people who became smokers at the age of 15-16, give it up when they turn 40 due to health issues.
And another report, dated Dec 2012, says:
Bulgarian hoteliers and restaurateurs will deliberately allow the breaking of the country’s law against smoking in enclosed public places unless MPs agree to an easing of the ban, Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association Blagoy Ragin said ahead of a meeting of Parliament’s health committee on proposed amendments to the law.
He said that hoteliers and restaurateurs would embark on civil disobedience from December 15 to 30 if the smoking ban is not lifted.
Blagoy Ragin, Chair of the Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association (BHRA), has said that the full indoor smoking ban will be lifted in six months, once a new government assumes office.
On Tuesday, MPs from the Parliamentary Economic Committee rejected amendments that would have lifted the country’s full smoking ban in enclosed public spaces with10 votes for, 6 against, and 5 abstentions.
In a Tuesday interview, Ragin said that Bulgaria’s next government would lift the ban upon assuming office because it would be more attentive to the opinion of the business sector.
Disgruntled representatives of the hotel and restaurant business vowed to start dismissing employees on Wednesday in response to the confirmation of the smoking ban.
“In six months’ time, the first point on the agenda of the next Parliament will overturn the full statutory ban on indoor smoking, regardless of who has made it into Parliament,” Ragin declared.
And there’s been no news since. So I don’t know whether Bulgarian hoteliers and restaurateurs have gone ahead with their threat of disregarding the ban or not.
I’m not sure what to make of it all, except that smokers in Bulgaria are angry enough to demonstrate in front of their parliament against their 6-month-old ban, and they have the support of Bulgarian hotels and restaurants, and of quite a few politicians too.
Totally unlike Britain. But the difference is probably mostly due to the fact that the prevalence of smoking in Bulgaria is at least twice that in Britain. It’s probably only when smokers become a relatively small minority that it becomes possible to bulldoze them with draconian laws, as in Britain.
Which is why I’m inclined to think that full scale revolt against these bans is most likely to break out first in Eastern Europe or the Middle East (where up to 50% of adults smoke) than in Western Europe or the USA.