International organisation to help Czechs fight tobacco addiction


While in places like North America smoking is increasingly seen as anti-social, in many countries - including here in the Czech Republic - people have not been so quick to kick the habit. Among the international groups dedicated to fighting nicotine is the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. The organisation's Swedish chairman, Dr. Karl Fagerstrom, explained how he believed smoking could best be tackled in the Czech Republic.

"The problem is the same in the Czech Republic as it is in virtually any other European country. Some countries have come a little further than others, but usually it's around 30 percent. So, the Czech is neither any worse nor any better off. And how to help the Czechs? I think the recipe is the same: there needs to be a lot of involvement from politicians here in giving funds to public education. That sort of education raises the awareness of tobacco and creates motivation to give up smoking. Then we also need to train and educate the medical profession, doctors and nurses mainly, to take care of those many who find it very difficult to give it up and cannot do it simply on their own."

Recently the Czech Republic added its signature to the first worldwide health treaty that designates tobacco as the world's most serious preventable cause of death. The treaty includes a ban on tobacco-related advertising. In addition, tax on tobacco products will be increased, and the proceeds from them are to be channelled into anti-smoking activities. The treaty also addresses the issue of smuggling cigarettes across country borders and states that the health danger warning must cover at least 30 percent of each cigarette pack. Providing resources for treating and preventing the illness is another main point in the treaty.

At the same time, doctors in the Czech Republic are starting experiments relating to smoking. They will present the results at a conference to be organised by the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco in Prague two years from now, bringing together about a thousand participants from both the European and American branches of this organisation. Dr. Fagerstrom divides the solution to the tobacco issue into two distinct areas:

"There are two levels: the political level with public service announcements and then the medical treatment which should be as normal as when we treat hypertension and higher blood lipids because they are risk factors for diseases. This is a much bigger risk factor, but the medical profession hasn't done much so far."