Smoking ban angers cafes, smokers in Croatia

Wed May 6, 2009 9:16am EDT
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By Ivana Sekularac

ZAGREB (Reuters Life!) - For more than one million of Croatia's smokers, the world turned upside down on Wednesday.

After decades of a lifestyle in which cigarettes were taken for granted, a smoking ban in all public places took effect, causing a major shock for the smoking population, which amounts to one third of the country's 4.4. million people.

Fines ranging from 1,000 kuna ($180) for smokers to 15,000 kuna, or three average monthly salaries, for owners of premises allowing it, made sure the law would be observed, at least in the early days.

"Today is day one and the club is empty. Everyone used to be smoking in here," said Davor Grubic, who runs a small cafe near the popular Komedija theater in downtown Zagreb.

"They should give restaurants and bars an option to decide whether they want to host smokers or non-smokers. This is not going to work," he predicted.

Cafes in downtown Zagreb, usually swarming with people, were deserted. Instead, smokers were puffing outside, wondering what to do when winter comes.

"I'll probably get pneumonia because I will be spending most of the time smoking outside," student Tijana Pivcevic said with a laugh.

In the past week, local newspapers have carried dozens of anti-smoking tips and no-smoking signs have been selling like hot cakes. Health officials say almost 13,000 people die of smoking in Croatia each year. Health Minister Darko Milinovic said it simply had to stop.   Continued...

<p>An extinguished cigarette is pictured in an ashtray in a bar in downtown Zurich September 28, 2008. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann</p>