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Croatia backs down on smoking ban

Published on 26/09/2009

Zagreb -- The Croatian parliament has done a U-turn on a law banning smoking in public after pressure from cafe and restaurant owners, the assembly said on its website Friday.

An amended law, adopted late Thursday, again allows smoking in cafes and restaurants in specially designated smoking zones. The zones must not be less than 20 percent of the establishment’s overall surface area.

Cafes smaller than 50 square metres (538 square feet) are allowed to decide whether they will be a smoking or non-smoking location after meeting certain criteria.

Ever since the law banning smoking in all public places was introduced in May, managers of cafes and restaurants have pressed the government to amend it on grounds that it was ruining their businesses.

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.

In Croatia, tobacco is blamed for killing some 10,000 people each year while an additional 3,000 die from passive smoking, according to the health ministry.

Annual health costs in treating the consequences of smoking are estimated at 422 million euros (more than 619 million dollars).

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, according to the World Health Organisation.