Lower House approves smoking ban

The law may take effect in mid-2017 if it is approved by the Senate and president

A smoking ban in restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs may finally take place in the Czech Republic as of May 31, 2017. The Lower House of Parliament passed the draft law on Dec. 9. Restaurant owners will not have the option to set up separate smoking rooms under the bill as it now stands. The bill still has to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president. There is seemingly enough support for the bill, which passed 118 to 23 in the Lower House, to overturn a possible rejection by the Senate. Electronic cigarettes are not covered by the ban.

The smoking ban also extends to movie theaters, concert venues, exhibition halls and indoor sports settings, which will not be allowed to have separate smoking areas.

Some 17 of 28 members of the European Union already have similar smoking bans. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) said that the law will bring the Czech Republic up to the same level as civilized countries regarding protecting the health of its citizens. He also said on Twitter that the law shows that Czech Republic put its citizens ahead of commercial interests.

Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček (ČSSD) also commented that his three-year effort to get the law passed did not end in ruin, and that he felt some pride and satisfaction.

There is still opposition to the bill, however. The Association of Hotels and Restaurants (AHR) is urging the Senate to reject the bill, as it will further hurt restaurants and bars especially in rural areas. The AHR says the market can regulate itself regarding whether a place would be smoking or non-smoking. Many restaurants in urban areas have already gone non-smoking. The association did praise that parts of an earlier bill that required pubs to have non-alcoholic beverages at regulated prices had been dropped. Unless the AHR can convince a significant number of Lower House deputies to change their minds, the Senate's rejection will have no effect.

Some three out of four people in the Czech Republic favor a smoking ban. Only 28 percent of Czech people smoke, which about four percentage points higher than the EU average. Bills to ban smoking in restaurants and pubs have been proposed before. The previous attempt in May 2016 failed to gain enough support.

Anti-smoking bill makes new progress - Prague.TV, 05.10.2016

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