Serbia, cigarettes and the smoking ban: Why cafes and restaurants are still full of tobacco smoke

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Lazar Ivić from Zemun is 25 years old, of which he spent the last eight with a cigarette between his index finger and middle finger.

“I smoke maybe a little more than one hell a day – about 25 pieces, for example,” Ivic told the BBC in Serbian, adding that he had not planned to stop so far.

As he says, he does not support the announcement of a ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants – which he has been waiting for for years – but he is not afraid of it.

“I wish I could sit in a cafe and light a cigar, so that I don’t have to go out in front every time,” he points out.

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Along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia is one of the few countries where smoking is allowed in restaurants.

The bill amending the law, which divides cafes into parts for smokers and non-smokers – and they are often very close – has meanwhile remained just a dead letter on paper.

Why?

“Due to the influence of the tobacco industry and caterers on the state – they claim that this will lead to big losses, that cafes will be closed, jobs will disappear and revenues will be reduced,” Srmena Krstev from the Republic Expert Commission for Tobacco Control told the BBC in Serbian.

It was this commission that proposed the amendment to the law.

“These are all false claims, it has not happened in any country,” she points out.

However, people in Serbia spend this January 31st – National Day without tobacco smoke – wrapped in the smell of cigarettes.

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