A full smoking ban, adopted by the previous Bulgarian legislature, was abolished on June 4, only three days after it became law. New amendments to the Health Care Act implementing more liberal rules for smoking in public areas were published in the State Gazette on June 4.The strict ban went into force because the new amendments had not been signed into law fast enough, but few establishments bothered to banish ashtrays from indoors premises, knowing that the ban would soon be rescinded.On May 31, Bulgaria's ruling party GERB said it would push for further measures against smoking, measures which would target advertising of cigarettes and other tobacco products. According to the head of the parliamentary health care committee, Luchezar Ivanov, a list of locations would be prepared where cigarettes may be advertised in the future.Currently in Bulgaria, it is forbidden to advertise cigarettes, but it is permitted to advertise the brand of the product, according to Doctor Masha Gavrailova, head of the public health care department within the Health Ministry. Cigarette advertising is also banned on television and radio.But these new restrictions still marked a serious step down from the full smoking ban some expected to see in place from the beginning of June.Under latest amendments, passed by Parliament in late May and going into force on June 4, smoking would be permitted in specially designated areas in restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, railroad stations, airports, bus stations and other locations.Meanwhile, according to the amendments, proprietors of restaurants, pubs and coffee shops smaller than 50 sq m in area would be allowed to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking or not.The total public smoking ban was initially supposed to come into effect on June 1 2010, but MPs from Bulgaria's ruling party GERB decided to introduce stipulations making it easier for certain establishments, hotels, restaurants and other indoor facilities to get around it.The reason for the ban's qualification, according to reports, was that many proprietors, hoteliers, restaurant and bar owners had claimed that the full ban would have hit business, worsening the impact of the economic crisis.In the European Union, Bulgaria ranks second only to Greece in its percentage of regular smokers, a Eurobarometer statistic revealed.Other notable changes include permitting employees to smoke during working hours, provided it is in a place set up for that purpose. In effect, the provisions extend the existing status quo, which was due to change with the introduction of the ban on smoking in public places.