news 23 Nov 12

Bulgarians Demand Right to Smoke Freely

Hospitality businesses and ordinary people held a rally in Sofia on Thursday demanding repeal of existing restrictions on smoking in closed public spaces and denouncing calls to extend it.

Pro-smoking protesters rallied Thursday in front of the Bulgarian parliament in Sofia holding banners that read "Ban Increases Number of Smokers," and "Equal Rights for Smokers and Non-Smokers".

Protesters demanded repeal of the a partial ban that obliges hospitality establishments to separate areas for smokers and non-smokers - and denounced calls to extend the ban to a complete prohibition on smoking in closed public spaces.

The rally, which mustered several hundred people, was co-organized by the Bulgarian Association of Hotel and Restaurant Owners.

Meanwhile, restaurants and bar owners in Bulgaria staged a symbolic "empty tables" protest to highlight what they say is the adverse effect of the existing ban on their businesses.

They said the state should inspect implementation of smoke-free areas, but a full ban would effectively kill off their businesses.

Bulgaria ranks among the top five European countries in terms of smoking rates, both in the general population and among the young.

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