It is more than the pressure of unemployment that causes this U-Turn in EU forced ban on smoking. Everyone knows that smoking is hard to give up and when it is part of the culture in a country it becomes even harder. There might be another motive as the tax from cigarettes is needed in these hard times, even though around 50% of cigarettes are contraband in the Bulgaria. Protests from smokers of course act as a good excuse to relax the ban from a government who want to keep up their popularity, just as they skipped on more rakia tax last year.
The center-right GERB party, which won general elections last July, said its proposed relaxation of a ban on smoking in all public places would avoid hurting the tourist industry during tough economic times.
The proposed changes have the support of the Socialists but some of GERB's rightist allies in parliament said they would vote against them.
According to a draft submitted to parliament, restaurants and cafes smaller than 100 square meters (1,000 sq ft) in size will decide whether to allow smoking while larger establishments would be required to designate separate non-smoking halls.
Similar measures were imposed as part of a partial smoking ban in 2005 but have been widely ignored. Smoking will remain forbidden in all public buildings and on public transport.
The Balkan country of 7.6 million people has the second highest percentage of smokers in the EU after Greece. More than half of men and about a third of women smoke, surveys show.