Bulgarians Rally in Support of Unlimited Smoking
Representatives of businesses, as well as regular citizens have assembled Thursday in front of the Bulgarian Parliament in Sofia to rally for a lifting of a full smoking ban in closed public spaces.
Restaurants and bar owners have staged a symbolic "empty tables" protest to demonstrate what they argue is the effect of the ban on their businesses.
The event, which has gathered several hundred people, is co-organized by the Bulgarian Association of Hotel and Restaurant Owners.
Protesters carry signs such as "The Ban Increases the Number of Smokers," and "Equal Rights for Smokers and Non-Smokers."
People are requesting the reversal of the ban, which came into effect in the beginning of the summer, and a reversal to a partial ban, which sees establishments holding areas for both smokers and non-smokers.
While resaurant and bar owners argued that the state should make strict inspections on the implementation of smoke-free areas, they said that a full ban would effectively kill their businesses.
Bulgaria is consistently ranking among the top 5 European countries in terms of smoking rates, both in the general population and among the young.
Anti smoking ban protests are also scheduled for other Bulgarian cities Thursday.
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