Bulgaria Hopes to Please EU Health Commissioner This TimeHealth | February 16, 2012, Thursday // 08:51| views
European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli from Malta is pictured here as he participates in a campaign to mark 'No Tobacco Day' at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 27 May 2010. Photo by EPA/BGNES
Bulgaria will welcome EU commissioner for health and consumer policy John Dalli on Thursday, just a day after moving a step closer to a full smoking ban.
John Dalli will present in Sofia the results and future goals of the campaign "Ex-smokers are unstoppable."
The initiative is backed by the European Commission and aims to motivate and help more people shake off the nasty habit.
Bulgaria's parliamentary health commission approved unanimously on Wednesday the proposal for introducing a full ban on smoking in closed public spaces as of June 1, 2012.
The cabinet recently issued an official proposal to introduce a full smoking ban for closed public areas on June 1, 2012.
Such a measure was to be enforced in 2010, but was postponed by the government with the argument that it might harm the country's tourism.
During his previous visit to the Balkan country in the summer of 2010 Commissioner Dalli expressed regrets over the Bulgarian government's decision to delay the full smoking ban in public places.
"It is a pity that the Bulgarian cabinet has taken such a decision, being apparently driven by populist reasons. I personally would have never agreed to such a decision. The European Commission will continue to make all efforts to protect the rights of the Bulgarian citizens, who are not smokers," Commissioner Dalli said.
He added that the European Commission does not have the right to interfere directly with the decisions of the national authorities.
Under amendments that Bulgaria's parliament adopted in 2010 smoking is allowed in separate smoking spaces inside restaurants, bars, coffee shops, railroad stations, airports, ports, and bus stations.
The owners of restaurants, clubs and coffee shops with an area less than 50 square meters, should decide if smoking would be allowed.
The draft legislation surprisingly managed to fuse the ruling center-right GERB with the main opposition Socialist Party. The ad hoc coalition claimed that the proposed relaxation of a ban on smoking in all public places would avoid hurting the tourist industry during tough economic times.
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.
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