Tuesday marks the final day in which Czech smokers will be able to light-up in pubs and restaurants. As of Wednesday new anti-smoking legislation signed into law early this year formally comes into effect, bringing the country in line with the rest of Europe. Adam Kulhánek is a doctor and addiction specialist at Charles University’s Faculty of Medicine, and also a member of the Coalition Against Tobacco NGO. I asked him what impact he expected the smoking ban to have:
“The greatest impact of the non-smoking ban should be a reduction of heart and lung disease in the general population. About 16,000 active smokers, and 2,000-3,000 passive smokers, are dying every year in the Czech Republic as a result of smoking. And that is a very high level of mortality.”
Are Czechs relatively heavy smokers when compared to Europe and the rest of the world?
“Yes. The prevalence of smoking in the Czech Republic is one of the highest in Europe. Approximately 30 percent of adults in the population are smokers. And that is really a very high number.”
Do you think the ban will have a significant impact on people stopping smoking, or will smokers just light up at home now instead of in the pub?
“I hope that the number of regular smokers will decrease after this law comes into effect. Because most smokers are specifically smoking in places like bars and pubs. So I hope it causes a reduction.”
What about the impact of second-hand smoke? Up till now staff in pubs and restaurants have had to breathe second-hand smoke whether they were smokers or not. Is the ban expected to have a health impact for such people?
“Yes. From evidence we see in other European countries, passive smoking levels increase, including for children, as a result of smoke in public places. So that is another aspect of the problem that the law change should address.”
And will the ban, do you think, have a cultural impact? The smoky Czech pub full of beer drinkers is almost perceived as being part of Czech culture. So could traditions change as a result of the ban? Whether that is a good thing, in terms of people drinking less, and perhaps exercising more, or in negative terms, as pub owners and restaurateurs fear, in terms of a decline in customers?
“It is a difficult question. I think we will have to wait to evaluate what happens until after the ban has been in effect for some time. Right now, I’m not sure how the Czech people will react to the change in the law...”