Smoking Ban Widely Ignored in BulgariaHealth | December 22, 2010, Wednesday // 11:33| views
Owners of coffee shops and restaurants with less than 50 square meters have the right to decide whether smoking would be allowed. Photo by EPA/BGNES
Even though a smoking ban in public places came into force in Bulgaria five days ago, reporters' checks across the country have shown that it is being widely ignored.
Reports say this may be due to the delay in official checks, which will start at the beginning of next year and give an opportunity to owners of restaurants, coffee shops and bars to take advantage of the 2-week grace period and provide the necessary walls, tight-closing doors and good ventilation equipment.
The requirements will affect all smoking spaces inside commercial and administrative buildings, railroad stations and airports as well.
Owners of coffee shops and restaurants with less than 50 square meters have the right to decide whether smoking would be allowed. In case smoking is allowed, individuals under the age of 18 would not be admitted as they are banned from smoking in all indoors spaces.
In larger establishments, at least 50% of the space must be dedicated to non-smokers.
In night clubs, smoking will be allowed at all times regardless of how large they are.
Open-space coffee shops and restaurants inside shopping malls are becoming non-smoking facilities.
Owners face fines for inadequate ventilation and lack of sings designating the non-smoking sections and the smoking ban for those under 18.
Fines for owners range from BGN 500 to BGN 10,000. Individuals, who violate the ban, would also face fines, but only if they agree to provide their ID card.
Similar measures were imposed as part of a partial smoking ban in 2005 but have been widely ignored.
Bulgaria ranks second after Greece in the EU in terms of number of regular smokers as a percentage of the population, according to a Eurobarometer survey.