Croatian bar and restaurant owners protested on Saturday a new tough law banning smoking in public places claiming it was ruining business and needs to be amended.
Since the anti-smoking law was adopted earlier this month, bars and restaurants, especially those without terraces, reported a "significant decrease in business," an association of some 16,000 owners said in a statement, according to the state-run HINA news agency.
AdvertisementThe law should be amended to "prevent the collapse of the sector," they said.
The association is proposing that establishments smaller than 50 square metres (538 square feet) and serving only drinks should be allowed to decide whether they will be a smoking or non-smoking location.
The bigger establishments should be allowed to allocate 30 percent of their space for smokers where they would be allowed to serve food and drink.
Croatia, whose economy relies on tourism, has some 5,800 restaurants and almost 10,000 bars, mostly cafes.
The law is directly threatening some 100,000 employees in the sector, the association said.
Fines of up to 2,100 euros (2,800 dollars) for individuals and up to 21,000 euros for business owners are imposed on those violating the smoking ban.
Croatian officials have said the law was aimed at protecting non-smokers, who make up 68 percent of the country's population of 4.4 million.
The health ministry estimated that tobacco kills some 10,000 people every year while an additional 3,000 die from passive smoking in Croatia.
Health costs of treating the consequences of smoking are estimated at 422 million euros annually.
The Balkans are home to Europe's most inveterate smokers, with 30 to 40 percent of all adults hooked on a habit considered a major cause of premature death by the World Health Organization.