Serbians struggle with latest imposition: ban on smoking

FORGET about the economic crisis, Serbians have another burning issue on their hands - a smoking ban.

The law restricting smoking that took effect yesterday is rattling the tobacco-loving Balkan nation where every third citizen is a smoker and where cigarettes have been part of the daily routine for centuries.

While the law does not impose a complete smoking ban in cafs and restaurants, they must introduce non-smoking areas and smoking is no longer allowed in offices and public areas such as theatres, cinemas or concert halls. Individuals violating the ban can be fined up to 5,000 dinars (40) and business can be handed a fine of up to a million dinars (80,000).

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The law is a "step forward" for the country that aspires to be an EU member, argued health minister Tomica Milosavljevic. The EU says it wants all member states to ban smoking in enclosed public places, on public transport and in work by 2012.