Bulgarian Establishments to Stage Smoking Ban Boycott
Beginning December 15, the managers of Bulgarian bars, restaurants and coffee shops will allow smoking in their establishments despite the full smoking ban being effective in the country.
The Chairman of the Bulgarian Association of Hotel and Restaurant Owners (BHRA), Blagoy Ragin says the boycott will, most likely, last until the end of the year and aims at showing the difference in profits when smoking is allowed inside.
The warning will turn into reality if lawmakers fail to listen and respond favorably to demands of BHRA members to return to having smoking and no-smoking spaces inside establishments.
The owners and managers are going to pay any fines imposed on them for the boycott.
On Tuesday, Ragin met with Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, and Health Minister, Desislava Atanasova, but has been told they back the full smoking ban and BHRA needs to find a lobby in the Parliament. Atanasova, however, said later the Members of the Parliament also want the full ban to remain in force.
Meanwhile, Ragin insisted that MPs from the two main opposition formations – the left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, and the ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS, have given BHRA 100% support.
Dian Chervenkondev, MP from Borisov's ruling, center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, in contradiction of what was reported by Atanasova, said there would be separate spaces for smokers and non-smokers in an attempt to achieve balance and reasonable consensus.
Chervenkondev grounded his statement on the fact the revenues of the establishments were collapsing, forcing many to close and layoff staff.
Last Thursday, MPs from GERB declared that the full smoking ban in indoor spaces in Bulgaria would remain without any future changes. Their statement came on the heels of reports about Bulgaria's Parliament considering easing the full smoking ban in closed public spaces that was imposed in the country on June 1. The Standard daily wrote earlier that the ban may only be lifted in bars and night clubs and only after 10:00 pm.
On Sunday, in a TV interview, Borisov pointed out that, since the full smoking ban is an important measure, it has to be discussed again, and hinted he would see the above decision as a reasonable move.
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.
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