For this year's World No Tobacco Day,the World Health Organisation announced a campaign called "Second-hand smoke kills. Let's clear the air", which aims to make the public aware of the fact that passive smoking is a real and significant threat, as it can cause life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease.
I talked to an expert in giving up smoking, doctor Eva Kralikova from the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology of Charles University in Prague, about the level of protection of non-smokers in the Czech Republic.
"I guess everyone who visits some Czech pub or restaurant can see that there is no sufficient protection of non-smokers. Even though we have some laws, it is not sufficient and should be enforced more. We should have better legislation concerning protection of non-smokers, definitely. I would say there is a need for a state concept of comprehensive tobacco control because there is a lack of this state care about tobacco control."
The Czech health ministry is working on an amendment to the law on tobacco products and addictive substances. Although it introduces more repressive measures, the ministry also aims to communicate with both smokers and non-smokers so that the former give up and the latter don't start in the first place. However, experts say the amendment is insufficient.
"Since 1992, we have been trying to pass a complex tobacco control law according to recommendations from organisations like the World Health Organisation. But they changed it to this law you just mentioned and it is a partial solution, not a perfect one."
The World Health Organisation claims that as part of their corporate strategy, tobacco companies have consistently fought regulations and legislation that could protect people from second-hand smoke. Doctor Kralikova suggests that Czech law-makers may have been influenced by the industry when passing the tobacco legislation since they disregarded known effective ways to fight smoking.
"A ban on advertisements for tobacco products and an increase in prices and taxes on cigarettes is the best solution we could do. It is very surprising that our MPs do not understand this need because it is very good for the state and it's very good for the health of the citizens. But, probably, lobbying from the tobacco industry in our Parliament is still more powerful."
The Czech health minister Bohumil Fiser says the cheapest way to prolong one's life is to quit smoking. According to doctor Kralikova, the Czech Republic still has a long way to go before people realise the real dangers of nicotine.
"The situation has been improving but we are still about 20 years behind the United States or Western Europe. It concerns understanding what tobacco means, what a terrible epidemic for the health of the population it means."
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