The Croatian government is considering easing smoking restrictions after complaints from restaurant and bar owners. They have reported 80 per cent business losses due to the ban, Croatian Health Minister Darko Milinovic said today.
Croatia began enforcing a ban on smoking in most indoor areas and public places in May this year. Owners of bars and restaurants complained that the ban was keeping most customers away. The owners say the decline is 80 per cent, but official statistics are still unavailable. The effects are especially visible in the big shopping centres where there are no balconies or open-air terraces for smokers, and where the first bars have closed in recent weeks.
Milinovic told reporters in Zagreb that changes would be made to the smoking law, but he did not specify what those changes would be or whether they would allow smoking again in restaurants.
He added: "I still believe that the losses restaurant owners reported have mostly to do with the economic crisis and not the ban on smoking."
An estimated 25-30 per cent of Croatia's 4.5 million people smoke. Croatia was hit hard by economic crisis. The country's gross domestic product fell 6.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2009, its biggest drop in years.