Tobacco-Addicted Bulgarians Ready to Unite in Party
Bulgarians, who are firmly against the ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces, enforced as of June 1 last year, are bracing up to form a party to defend their rights.
The initiative has been spearheaded by popular movie stars Andrey Slabakov and Djoko Rosic, jazz singer Hilda Kazasyan, opera and pop singer Orlin Goranov, professor Milan Milanov from Sofia emergency hospital Pirogov.
The popular tobacco addicts have already pooled efforts in a civil organization, named "National Association of the Free People". They warn however they are ready to form a party and vie for MP seats, relying on the support of more than 2 million Bulgarians.
The association plans to hold a new massive rally on February 1 in front of the parliament, aimed to raise awareness of smokers' rights and the difficulties that small and medium-sized enterprises face after the ban was introduced in cafes, bars and restaurants, regardless of size.
Slabakov, a passionate chain-smoker, argues that the ban on smoking was approved not without the assistance and financial support of drug cartels.
"Humans are not angels. Once you uproot one vice, there is more free room for another one to take root. I am absolutely sure that drug cartels are pouring money for this ban to be introduced. Have you noticed that over the last 15 years talk about drugs is not so popular, while cigarettes have gained the reputation of the biggest scourge of mankind?," Slabakov fumed in May last year n an interview on TV 7.
Meanwhile experts have warned that Bulgaria's organized crime will see their old favorite - illegal cigarette sales - boom after smoking was banned in all enclosed public spaces.
The full smoking ban in closed public spaces 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.
Bulgaria's crack-down on smokers date back to 2005, when a partial smoking ban was introduced only to be widely ignored.
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