Bulgarian Parliament Committee Moves to Lift Smoking Ban
The Bulgarian parliamentary economy committee has adopted at first reading the Socialist proposal for amendments to the Health Act pertaining to smoking in public places.
The proposal has been passed with eight votes "for," four "against" and one "abstained."
According to the new text, tabled by the Member of the Parliament from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Spas Pantchev, the smoking ban will remain in force for administrative buildings, offices, kindergartens, schools, hospitals, and fast food restaurants, but will be lifted for establishments whose area is under 70 square meters. Their owners willl be able to choose if the establishment will be smoke-free or not. Larger establishments must have a ventilation system and a rigid partition between spaces that separate smokers from nonsmokers .
Smoking will be allowed in casinos and nightclubs, where a partition is not even required.
From all BSP members of the committee, only Georgi Kadiev has voted "against" the changes.
The arguing between club owners, MPs, and civil initiatives against smoking, has been fierce and lasted for an hour and a half. All motives of both sides "for" and "against" the liberalization of the smoking regime and its the economic effects have been put on table once again.
One week ago, the Bulgarian Socialist Party moved to parliament an amendment to the Health Act to ease the full ban on smoking in public places in the country.
The draft amendment was signed by nine Socialist members of parliament in a highly controversial move, believed to be orchestrated by people in sectors, hurt by the ban.
The full smoking ban was introduced in June 2012 by the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, government of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
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The owners of bars or restaurants below 70 m2 are allowed to decide for themselves according to the proposal. That means if you don't like smoke you can visit all the restaurants below 70 m2 that will be banning smoking. And avoid the smoking ones.
This allows everybody a free choice. It is a reasonable proposal. The same rule works in other EU-countries, although at many different m2 levels.
Obviously the changes are not reasonable. If i had a baby, young child or otherwise didn't want to breather second-hand smoke i can no longer go to any restaurant smaller than 70sqm. Nor is it possible for anyone who doesn't want to passive smoke to go clubbing or go to a casino and we all know what the "rigid partition between spaces that separate smokers from non-smokers" looked like when the rules were the same a few years ago.
With the current smoking ban, smokers are free to go wherever they like (restaurants, casinos, clubs, schools, hospitals) as long as they can manage to not smoke for however long they are inside. Nobody is asking them to hold their breath inside, just to go outside to light and smoke their cigarettes. Sounds reasonable to me.
As a smoker myself, I am very encouraged by this news and the proposals seem to be very sensible. Also, I would imagine that all but the most fanatical non-smokers will be unconcerned about the proposed changes. It's a curious observation that every country that introduced a smoking ban, almost immediately started to suffer from a worse economic situation (starting with Ireland). The reason is pretty obvious to me, a lot of business and ideas are formulated in the bars where people drink and smoke! The EU people will argue that the long-term healthcare costs will be substantial, but in my opinion the cost of reduced social networking is greater. Anyway, I very much hope that the President doesn't veto the bill.