Bulgaria Moves Step Closer to Full Smoking Ban
Bulgaria's parliamentary health commission has approved unanimously the proposal for introducing a full ban on smoking in closed public spaces as of June 1, 2012.
"This is one of the very rare cases where the MPs vote as people and experts, not as members of a particular party," Health Minister Stefan Konstantinov commented.
Bulgaria's cabinet recently issued an official proposal to introduce a full smoking ban for closed public areas on June 1, 2012.
Such a measure was to be enforced in 2010, but was postponed by the government with the argument that it might harm the country's tourism.
According to the latest data, approximately 39% of Bulgarians are smokers. Some 60% are said to be in favor of the introduction of a full smoking ban in closed public spaces.
A smoking ban in public places came into force in Bulgaria at the end of 2010, but it was widely ignored.
Owners of restaurants, coffee shops and bars were given the opportunity to take advantage of the 2-week grace period and provide the necessary walls, tight-closing doors and good ventilation equipment.
The requirements affected all smoking spaces inside commercial and administrative buildings, railroad stations and airports as well.
The new rules envisaged that owners of coffee shops and restaurants with less than 50 square meters have the right to decide whether smoking would be allowed. In case smoking is allowed, individuals under the age of 18 would not be admitted as they are banned from smoking in all indoors spaces.
In larger establishments, at least 50% of the space must be dedicated to non-smokers.
In night clubs, smoking is allowed at all times regardless of how large they are.
Open-space coffee shops and restaurants inside shopping malls should be non-smoking facilities.
Owners face fines for inadequate ventilation and lack of sings designating the non-smoking sections and the smoking ban for those under 18.
Fines for owners range from BGN 500 to BGN 10,000. Individuals, who violate the ban, would also face fines, but only if they agree to provide their ID card.
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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