Large turnout in Sofia for protest against full smoking ban in restaurants and bars

by Jenny Novac on November 23, 2012

Yesterday there was a large turnout for a protest outside Parliament in the Bulgarian capital city Sofia against the legislation that became operational in June against a full smoking ban in enclosed public areas such as restaurants and bars.

No Smoking

No Smoking sign

The protest was prepared by a hotel and restaurant association and on social networks. Organisers focused on what they identified as the enormous financial losses received as a result of the tougher anti-smoking rules.

Teams were near empty tables, smoking, with an iron cage was set outside Parliament. Organisers calculated that there were about 2500 participants in the protest.

Protesters held signs such as “The Ban Increases the Number of Smokers” and “Equal Rights for Smokers and Non-Smokers.”

Organisers are looking for the change of the ban, which became operational on June 1, and a change to a partial ban, which finds establishments holding places for both smokers and non-smokers.

While restaurant and bar owners quarreled that the state should make strict inspections on the introduction of smoke-free places, they said that a full ban would quickly hurt their businesses.

Theatre director Andrei Slabakov said to the groups that this regulation is not related to health care at all. If Parliament wanted, it would have prohibited tobacco products completely and would not impose taxes to cigarette companies. Political figures are now acting like a drugs association. The cars in Sofia kill considerably more people, but not anyone will put a stop to them,” he said.

One of the organizers of the demonstration with the Free Choice Association, Nasko Yankulov, who owns a club, said that he was there not just as an owner of a place of entertainment, but to try to show a big lie. According to the Yankulov, the regulation is negative as both in Bulgaria and Europe the manufacturing of cigarettes is aroused. Cigarettes are marketed almost everywhere. There is no connection between health care and smoking ban in clubs. He added that he wants the prior regulation renewed, the way it was before the regulation was enforced in June 1.”

Prior movements by restaurant and bar groups, as well as the expressed purpose by a group of independent MPs to table regulation to remake to the prior regulation that permitted separate smoking places in restaurants and bars, have faced a government reply that there will no return on the June regulation.

Bulgaria is persistently positioning among the top 5 European countries concerning smoking rates, both in the general population and among the youth.

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