EU Commissioner Scolds Bulgaria over Eased Smoking Ban
EU commissioner for health and consumer policy, John Dalli, has expressed regrets over the Bulgarian government's decision to delay the full smoking ban in public places.
“It is a pity that the Bulgarian cabinet has taken such a decision, being apparently driven by populist reasons. I personally would have never agreed to such a decision. The European Commission will continue to make all efforts to protect the rights of the Bulgarian citizens,who are not smokers,” Commissioner Dalli said.
He added that the European Commission does not have the right to interfere directly with the decisions of the national authorities.
Three member states of the European Union have imposed a full and another seven a partial ban on smoking.
The European Commission has approved a recommendation to guarantee smoke-free environment across the European Union up to 2012.
Under amendments that Bulgaria's parliament adopted earlier this 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.
The draft legislation has surprisingly managed to fuse the ruling center-right GERB with the main opposition Socialist Party. The ad hoc coalition claims that the proposed relaxation of a ban on smoking in all public places would avoid hurting the tourist industry during tough economic times.
Similar measures were imposed as part of a partial smoking ban in 2005 but have been widely ignored.
Bulgaria ranks second after Greece in the EU in terms of number of regular smokers as a percentage of the population, according to a Eurobarometer survey.
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