Smoking in Bulgaria

smoking in BulgariaEither I’m visiting Bulgaria as a tourist or planning to live here I have to know the terms related to smoking in Bulgaria. Since June 2012 there are some new rules and smoking is prohibited in public spaces. But what does this exactly mean?

Currently I CAN smoke:

  • In open public spaces. But what is the definition of “an open public space”? According to the Ministry of Health in Bulgaria an open public place is each public space that has up to 2 walls and a shed /both summer garden and terrace must abide by these rules/. Different places with natural air circulation available may also be considered as an open public space.
  • I can smoke in parks or at bus stops as long there are no children or sports events nearby. The same rule applies to smoking at the beach or pools.
  • Smoking is admissible on universities’ territories as well.
  • And there are specially designated areas for smoking at the airports where nobody under 18 years is admitted.


Strangely but the list of the places where I can NOT smoke has the same length:

  • Smoking is absolutely banned in closed public spaces such as restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs, etc.
  • I can’t smoke in office buildings too.
  • Naturally smoking is forbidden at children playgrounds. The ban includes also the areas near them. If there’s a playground at a restaurant’s garden, the children area must be specially designated.
  • The law logically forbids smoking at all the places where different events for children and students are held. That list includes crèches, kindergartens, schools, school dorms and places where children social services are provided.
  • The prohibition also covers sports and cultural events.

If I break the law and smoke despite the prohibition, every concerned citizen can make a complaint to the Regional health inspection /list with the duty phone numbers/. The inspection is implemented by governmental health controllers who are authorized to collect all needed data and compose an act of violation. Interesting fact: if I’m owner of any kind of restaurant and I’m holding a private party the prohibition still applies but the health controllers can’t enter the room by force. As a general rule they have free access to all public spaces in order to supervise and check them.

It’s important to know that at the moment of the composing the act I can write down my objections. My right here can be exercised within 3 days. I must think through and consider if there are any proofs that I’ve committed violation and then use every possible evidence gap in my favor. In case there’s a following penal order, I can appeal to it in court within 7 days.  At this stage I have the right to demand additional gather of evidence. This situation requires professional legal help and it’s highly recommended to hire a lawyer.

I can also be fined if I get caught breaking the law.

  • The amount varies between 300 – 500 leva / 500 – 1000 leva for a second violation.
  • If I’m a sole trader the fines are respectively 1000 – 1500 leva / 1500 – 3000 leva for a second violation.
  • The amount for a legal entity is 3000 – 5000 leva / 5000 – 10 000 leva for a second violation.  

So it’s completely understandable if I’m upset as a smoker with these rules, but I must realize that:

smoking is not a legal right and it cannot be protected. On the contrary – when one’s smoking the health of the others is endangered and the governmental health policy is violated.

The smoking ban is not a form of discrimination.  My choice to be a smoker is something completely different than belonging to certain ethnic group, being a homosexual or having non-traditional religious beliefs. In such case this law couldn’t be considered as discriminative. Smoking is a choice – not a quality.

Clubs and bars shrouded in smoke actually aren’t cool at all. And this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a smoker myself.

It is true that some of the other European countries have more moderate strategy in the field of smoking restriction but this is the legal situation in Bulgaria. After all here there was a 2 year grace period.

(*) The article aims to explain basic rights under Bulgarian law and it is not to be considered as a legal advisor. We strongly advise you to hire a lawyer, if you experience trouble understanding and using these rights. (*)


Ilina Malceva


1. Health Act.

2. Administrative Procedure Code.

3. Administrative Violations and Sanctions Act.

4. Protection Against Discrimination Act.