Bulgarian NGO Thrown Out of Parliament over Smoking Law Protest
Activists of a civic movement protesting the ruling majority’s plans to water down the much expected ban to smoke in public places have been thrown out of the Bulgarian Parliament.
Members of the Civic initiative “Bulgaria without Smoke” were raising their voices in protest inside the Parliament building as the MPs were debating the much disputed legislation, which is supposed to introduce a more permeating smoking ban, doctoronline.bg reported.
“The government is not very happy by the fact that there is a civil society in Bulgaria which is fighting for its right to be able to sit down and have a drink without being choked to death by cigarette smoke,” said one of the leaders of the protesters Mariana Todorova as the “Bulgaria without Smoke” activists were kicked out of the building of the National Assembly after they tried to protest from the balcony of the plenary hall as the MPs were debating.
The draft amendments of the Health Act on easing the much anticipated all-out public smoking ban has surprisingly managed to bring together 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.
Under the proposed changes the owners of restaurants, clubs and coffee shops with an area less than 100 square meters, should decide if smoking would be allowed, while for larger establishments there must be a well-isolated smoking space.
The full ban is to remain effective for all other public spaces. Similar measures were imposed as part of a partial smoking ban in 2005 but have been widely ignored.
“We are going to continue to protest until the amendment ensuring all-out smoking ban in public places becomes a reality. The non-smokers in Bulgaria have been extremely patient, and have been in an unfavorable position for a long time. But this time we are not giving up. The government does not want to institute a full-fledged smoking ban because it is going to lose a lucrative market and a source of budget revenue,” said Todorova from “Bulgaria without Smoke.”
Bulgaria’s ruling party GERB has come over harsh criticism by its allies from the right Blue Coalition over its ideas to relax the expected smoking ban.
After debating for a couple of hours, the Bulgarian MPs failed to reach an agreement on the relaxation of the ban, and decided to continue the debates next week – 129 out of 142 present MPs voted in favor the postponement.
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