New Smoking Curbs Irk Serbs

by Kathy Jones on  November 13, 2010 at 8:56 PM Lifestyle News
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The new anti-smoking law which went into effect Thursday in Serbia caused grumbling among the one third of the population who are smokers but few were letting it interfere with their habits.
 New Smoking Curbs Irk Serbs
New Smoking Curbs Irk Serbs

In cafe Mango in central Belgrade "lifelong customer" Momcilo Rajic was in place as usual for his morning cup of strong black coffee with "two or three lightning sticks".

"Smoking is not allowed where I work so this is my time and I don't want to feel like a criminal, with an inspector stalking me trying to catch me with a cigarette," he complained.

The new law bans smoking in state institutions and buildings, schools, social care institutions, cultural and sports venues and media offices.

The ban covers all public and work spaces as well as many entertainment venues, with fines from 5,000 dinars (47 euros, 64 dollars) for individuals to one million dinars for companies and managers breaching the law.

Smaller bars and cafes can decide to be smoke-free or not, while bigger ones, as well as restaurants, have to provide a non-smoking space occupying more than half the premises and properly ventilated.

The owner of cafe Mango, Slobodan Dragisic, told AFP he had chosen to allow smoking in his coffee bar.

"There is only one room and the majority of my regulars smoke, so I don't want to disappoint them," he said.

Although he was not bound to do so by law, Dragisic said he did install a proper ventilation system in his bar "so the guests would not suffocate from the smoke."

No ashtrays could be seen at tables of the nearby Lion cafe and pastry shop, another of those premises smaller than 80 square metres (860 square feet) where owners can decide if they want to be smoking or non-smoking.

"Our guests didn't smoke inside, somehow it doesn't go with our cakes and ice creams," joked Mirela, one of the waitresses.

But she said in summer their small garden would probably be full of smokers, "as it has always been".

In a dozen cafes on Obilic Square in central Belgrade, only two had decided to ban smoking inside the premises.

The popular Greenet chain decided to have one of its cafes smoking and the other non-smoking on opposite sides of the street. In the first there were no free tables, but only two people in the second.

Jovan, a 25-year old student, who was smoking outside in the unseasonably warm weather, said he would accept a ban everywhere except for cafes or clubs.

"What's the point of having fun if you have to think whether you would be fined for a single smoke," he said.

His girlfriend Jelena Pavic, a non-smoker, believed the law would not have a big impact unless cigarettes were made more expensive. "Now you can buy a pack for 100 dinars even in shops near schools and hospitals," she said.

Many Serbs see the new law as a way for the government to suck up to Brussels, according to Mirko, a 75-year old retired administrative worker, who has been "smoking longer than working."

"Our government wants to be more European than the Europeans," he said in reference to Serbia's hopes of joining the European Union.

Serbia, like most of the Balkans, is home to Europe's most inveterate smokers, with 30 to 40 percent of all adults hooked on the habit, according to the World Health Organisation.

Tobacco is blamed for killing some 16,000 people each year, according to the Serbian health ministry, while around 76.9 percent children live in families that include at least one smoker.

Source: AFP

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