Daniela Daritkova, Chairperson of the Healthcare Committee with the Bulgarian National Assembly, talks about the adopted amendments to the Health Act, which stipulate the full smoking ban on public places from June 1 2012, in an interview for Focus News Agency.
Focus: The full smoking ban on public places will be enforced on June 1 2012. What are the advantages and disadvantages from such a ban?
Daniela Daritkova: As a Chairperson of the Healthcare Committee, I see only advantages from the implementation of a full smoking ban on public places, as the harm caused by the tobacco smoke is indisputable. It causes more than 25 diseases and has a very negative effect on complications of the cardiovascular system. Our goal is to have a healthier environment and to improve the indexes of health in Bulgaria. Bulgaria is on the top of the list in cardiovascular diseases mortality in Europe. When we discussed the smoking ban, as a part of the amendments to the Health Act, we received the implicit support of the Bulgarian Society of Cardiology, which estimates that the result from the smoking ban will be a downturn of around 20% of the cardiovascular diseases mortality in Bulgaria, mainly concerning people in active working age, thanks to the establishment of a healthier way of life and environment, which will improve the health of the nation in general.
Focus: Will it be possible smoking to be allowed in special separated indoor places, after the ban is implemented?
Daniela Daritkova: The legislation does not allow smoking on any public places. Each person can decide whether to smoke in their own home. The legislation also includes a ban on several outdoor places, including schoolyards, kindergartens, and places adjacent to homes, where special medical and social care for children is provided. Smoking will also not be allowed in stadiums and amphitheatres during sports and cultural events.
Focus: What do you think is the public opinion towards the smoking ban?
Daniela Daritkova: We are one of the last countries in Europe to introduce a smoking ban. Several Asian and American countries have already introduced such bans. We have made a commitment, since 2005, to limit the harmful effect of tobacco smoke and these debates have been going for seven years. With this legislative amendment I think that we will be able to change the public opinion with regards to smoking and striving towards a healthier way of life. The opinions and comments I heard in the plenary hall, and in the society as well, are not negative towards the legislative amendments. I think that people have realised the necessity to lead a healthier way of life, and the necessity to limit smoking. The society will receive this change positively, despite the fact that currently there are a lot of disputes. Things in Bulgaria will gradually become similar to the other European countries.
Focus: What other European countries have implemented smoking bans on public places?
Daniela Daritkova: Most European countries have implemented smoking bans, in one way or another, and among our neighbours – Turkey, Greece [and Macedonia]. I was in Kazakhstan last week, and I learned that they had introduced a full smoking ban in closed public places two years ago. So we are slightly behind in this regard.
Focus: What will be the sanctions for citizens and owners of establishments, who violate the smoking ban?
Daniela Daritkova: The sanctions for citizens start from around BGN 300 and become higher in cases of recidivism. The sanctions for owners of establishments are slightly higher – starting from BGN 1,000 and can surge drastically in cases of recidivism.
Focus: Who will monitor whether the smoking ban is observed?
Daniela Daritkova: The legislation reads that the regional health inspectorates, via their inspectors, must monitor the observance of the smoking ban.
Focus: Do you envisage any additional steps towards limiting the use of tobacco products?
Daniela Daritkova: The full smoking ban on public places is an enormous step forward. Let us see how the regulations, included in the legislation, are being observed. After that, based on the statistics – medical and from the law enforcement authorities, other amendments to the legislation could become necessary. Nonetheless, I hope that there will be no retreat from this ban, as this is really an investment in prevention, which always has beneficial economic effects.