When we arrived in Sofia in May, one of the first things we noticed was that unlike in the UK, there was no ban on smoking in public places in Bulgaria. The boys I lived with were delighted. I was appalled – it had been so long since the implementation of the ban in the UK that I’d forgotten the constant stench and never-ending need to febreze your clothes.
So imagine my delight – and the boys’ dismay – when just a few days later, our Bulgarian teacher told us that a similar smoking ban had been rolled out in Bulgaria.
Opinions on the law were not just split amongst our group but across the country – so much so that some MPs from the centre-right ruling party GERB put forward a proposal to lift the full indoor smoking ban. This has led to a number of protests from those on both sides of the issue in recent days. Last week, a group of those in favour of the full smoking ban staged a rather ingenious protest outside the parliament where they walked backwards to express their opinion that to lift the ban would be to take steps backwards. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov shared their opinion; in a rather unprecedented move he threatened to resign if the ban was lifted.
Satirical website Ne!Novinite suggested that this move had led to unanimous support across Bulgaria for smoking indoors… but it looks like both the ban and the prime minister are set to stay, after a vote by Bulgaria’s Parliamentary Economic Committee today. A final decision is expected to be made by the Parliament on Tuesday.