ZAGREB, June 17 (Reuters) - Croatia’s cafe and restaurant owners launched a petition on Wednesday to modify a law banning smoking in public, saying it is crippling businesses already weakened by recession.
The government enforced the law on May 6, much to the displeasure of Croatia’s one million smokers.
They make up a third of the 4.4 million population in this European Union candidate country, where cigarettes had been taken for granted for years.
The guild of cafe and restaurant owners organised the signing of a petition in all major towns. It will ask the government to allow smaller premises to choose if they want to cater for smokers or non-smokers.
"We do want to protect non-smokers but this law was adopted before the recession. Many things have contributed to the downturn of our sector, but the biggest decline came after the law took effect," said Zlatko Puntijar, who heads the guild.
"With this petition, we want to show the government and parliament that the law should be modified," he said.
The organisers said they expected strong support for the petition, which closes on June 30.
Local business daily website Business.hr said 121 cafes or restaurants had to close in the past month.
Croatia has been badly hit by the global crisis and its economy is expected to shrink up to 4 percent this year, for the first time in a decade.
The tourism industry has also urged the government to reconsider restrictions on Sunday trading seen as a concession to the powerful Roman Catholic Church, saying they force shops to close too early in the day during the summer season. (Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic; editing by Philippa Fletcher)