Macedonian cafes, restaurants close in protest of anti-smoking law
The owners of cafs, pubs and restaurants in Macedonia have started a day of defiance on Friday in a bid to voice their discontent with the new steep anti-smoking law, Xinhua reported.
The landlords say the ban has driven away their customers, dealing a severe blow to their business. The association of restaurateurs, who organized the protest, made it clear that it is not about being pro-smoking but about the freedom to choose. The association demands amendments to the law that would suit both groups of customers.
"We warn that the anti-smoking law is likely to result in closure of pubs and restaurants, staff layoffs and utter collapse of the sector," the head of the association, Darko Danilov told press on Thursday.
He said the business dropped 40 to 70 percent.
The law, which kicked off on New Year, prohibits smoking in virtually all enclosed public areas in Macedonia. Even the open terraces of restaurants and bars are non smoking areas. The fines mounting up to 300 euros for caught offenders and up to 4,000 euros for owners of establishments has made the law one of the steepest in the world.
"As the one responsible for the health of the population I stand behind the medical facts that the smoking presents a health hazard. I remain on the stand that the 100 percent ban should stay, " Health Minister Bujar Osmani said on Friday.
However, the resolve of the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party has already cracked under the public pressure from the smokers and the hospitality industry. Official figures show that nearly one half of the adults in the country puff.
Legislators from the party have submitted draft amendments. They proposed that smoking be allowed in outdoor space of cafes, terraces and other objects without roofs.