What do Ireland, Italy, Cuba, and the Czech town of Bystrice nad Pernstejnem have in common? Well, they've all decided to crack down on smoking in public places. Bystrice - a quiet country town in Moravia - has become a Czech pioneer in the battle against tobacco. As of February, smoking will be banned in all buildings and facilities owned by the town.
The mayor of Bystrice nad Pernstejnem, Josef Novotny, who is also a member of the Czech Republic's Senate, is a confirmed non-smoker. Having failed to enforce similar bans by issuing by-laws in the past, the town council in Bystrice has turned to a different legal means this time.
"Our by-laws banning gambling have always been legally challenged, so this time we are applying our owner's rights. In its decision on Tuesday the town council incorporated a smoking ban in all lease contracts with our tenants. The spaces include offices, cultural facilities, schools, three restaurants, sports grounds, swimming pools, our stadium and so on."
The mayor and independent Senator, Josef Novotny, says that the town of Bystrice is only going to put in practice what is already required by Czech law: the right to a non-smoking workplace and the right to be served meals in a non-smoking environment. These rights are not fully observed according to Mayor Novotny and Czech society tolerates it.
Apart from enquiries from the Interior Ministry Mayor Novotny has already had some reactions to the smoking ban from within the town.
"We've had some response from the pub landlords. They are worried about lower incomes and they think they will not be able to compete. But we think that on the contrary, those three non-smoking restaurants will have a great competitive advantage over the other smoking restaurants in town."
Mayor Josef Novotny says he believes that in two years' time half of Europe will have banned smoking in public places and he hopes the Czech Republic will not be the last country to do so. As a Senator he says he is ready to support non-smoking legislation.
"It is already being discussed in the lower house. But I can imagine the pressure from the tobacco companies and smokers will be strong. So I hope that our little initiative will help the non-smoking majority. I just cannot see why the 80 percent of non-smokers still allow the 20-percent minority to pester them with cigarette smoke."
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