Artistic smoking ban? No way!

Vezhdi Rashidov, Bulgaria's Minister of Culture


Bulgaria is slowly working its way towards European Union standards with regard to smokers and their public habits. There’s already segregation in restaurants and cafes (widely and flexibly ignored) that has apparently led to a 30% reduction in turnover. The introduction of a full clampdown on smoking in public areas has been delayed until 2014, “because of the economic crisis” and the financial effect on restaurants and cafes and of associated job losses. Meantime, a reported majority support the speedy adoption of more comprehensive regulation in public.

Excise duty and taxes on tobacco products are punitive (accounting for 87% of the retail price of a pack of 20 cigs), but a typical Bulgarian mid-range pack of 20 still sells at only 4.6 Lev (€2.35, £2.00), making one wonder how the local tobacco companies actually make any profit.

Despite regular prices rises, as Bulgaria harmonises taxes with the rest of the EU, Bulgarians remain heavy smokers, according to regular EU and other reports (almost 40% of adults admit to being regular smokers, second only to the Greeks). Nevertheless, the government has already proposed a strategic ‘National Programme for Restriction of Smoking in the Republic of Bulgaria, 2011-2015’.

Aggressive interference in art

And part of this has upset Vezhdi Rashidov, the Bulgarian Minister of Culture. He has objected to the proposed “restriction of scenes including cigarette smoking in Bulgarian movies and TV series”, according to a press release recently issued by his ministry.

Rashidov (pictured above in typical pose) is reported as stating that: “Such interference in art is absurd. Both as minister and as an artist, I will never accept this. I will not allow such an aggressive interference in the art.”

To support his declaration, the minister may well require some intervention by someone controversial like F1 entrepreneur Bernie Ecclestone, when “The European Union wanted to ban tobacco sponsorship of sport, and that would affect Formula One.” The only trouble is, where is the rich businessman who is interested in Bulgarian movies?

Source: FOCUS News Agency.



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