Poll: Most Czechs want easing of smoking ban

One of the most notable legal changes in the Czech Republic this year has been a ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants that entered force before the summer. However a new opinion poll suggests that almost three-fifths of Czechs believe the prohibition is too strict.

Photo: Filip JandourekPhoto: Filip Jandourek Smoking in bars, restaurants and cafes was banned in the Czech Republic on May 31 – World No Tobacco Day – this year. The country had been one of the few left in the European Union where the practice was still allowed.

The ban, which also applies to other public places such as cinemas, theatres and sports stadiums, had been debated for many years.

However, almost seven months after the relevant bill entered the statute books, most Czechs – 58 percent – feel that it is excessively strict and should be loosened.

That’s according to a survey produced for Czech Radio by the polling agency Median, whose director Přemysl Čech offers this breakdown of its findings.

“In terms of age, gender and education the differences tend to be small. Only in the case of university educated respondents does disagreement with easing the smoking regulations predominate over agreement. In that group 46 percent are for liberalisation and 52 percent are against.”

Among the strongest opponents of the smoking ban are restaurant and bar owners, particularly those in small Czech towns and villages.

However, the Ministry of Health is showing no signs of bowing to pressure to repeal or modify the bill.

Adam Vojtěch is minister of health in the recently appointed ANO government.

Adam Vojtěch, photo: Ana BriceñoAdam Vojtěch, photo: Ana Briceño “We have to bear in mind that around CZK 30 billion goes toward dealing with illnesses stemming from smoking annually. These include strokes, heart attacks, cancers and so on. Around 15,000 people die in this country in connection with smoking every year so I wouldn’t be able to support such a change. If anything, I’d be more in favour of leaving it longer before evaluating this law.”

For their part, the owners of many small pubs and eateries say the results are already clear: Their takings are down.

What’s more, they fear that with the arrival of the first winter since the ban was introduced patrons will not be inclined to go outside for a smoke in the extreme cold and will prefer to stay away.

Critics of the ban signed a petition calling for it to be done away with completely. However, this proposal was rejected by the Senate earlier this month. The idea of softening the legislation by bringing back designated smoking areas was also turned down by the upper house.