Romania prepares for ban on smoking in public places

Romania's government had begun removing ashtrays from its offices as the country prepares for a ban on smoking in public places which comes into effect at midnight.

The law was introduced after a fire in a nightclub in Bucharest on Oct. 30 killed 64 people and inspired calls for stricter safety regulations in public places.

Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, a non-smoker, said the government had prepared an online guide to explain the law.

Employees said ashtrays were taken out of government offices and "no smoking" signs went up Wednesday. About one-fourth of Romanians smoke.

Detainees in high-security prisons will be allowed to smoke, and there will be special places in airports for smokers. Authorities will have the power to close businesses which flout the ban.