Smoking ban becomes law

Czech restaurants will become no smoking May 31

A law banning smoking in restaurants and bars has been signed by President Miloš Zeman and will take effect May 31, which is designated World No Tobacco Day by the World Health Organization.

Zeman, who is a heavy smoker, had promised he would approve the law if it passed Parliament, and he would not block it based on his own desire to smoke.

Health Minister Miloslav Ludvík (ČSSD) said the law will not only protect restaurant and bar patrons but also staff at the establishments. Workers face long-term exposure that can have detrimental health effects. Similar bans are already in effect across much of the European Union.

The smoking ban will apply to all pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars, and there is no possibility to have segregated smoking room. There is an exception for bars with water pipes such as hookahs. Smoking will also be banned at public transportation stops. Zoos are now also included, with the exception of a possible restricted smoking area.

Medical facilities are also covered by the ban, with the exception of enclosed areas in psychiatric wards. Areas related to medical facilities are also now included, such as hallways and waiting rooms.

A total smoking ban will also apply to indoor entertainment facilities and spaces such as ballrooms, discos, exhibition halls and concert venues. This extends to renovated factory spaces that now primarily serve cultural functions. The ban also extends to the interior and exterior of all schools.

The law also allows for beverages of up to 4.3 percent alcohol content to be sold at sporting events. Alcohol sales from vending machines will now be banned.

There have been several attempts to previously to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, but all have failed before as opponents argued they were to restrictive. The last effort failed in May 2016 because it included a paragraph requiring pubs to have at least one nonalcoholic beverage cheaper than beer. That has dropped from the current version of the law.

Opponents say the ban will force rural pubs out of business, and in many villages the pub is the main place for people to congregate.

The Czech Republic until now was the last EU member to allow unrestricted smoking in restaurants.

Some 17 of the 28 EU members have complete bans on smoking in public places. Polls taken while the Czech ban was pending showed that three-quarters of the Czech population favor the ban. About 28 percent of Czechs smoke, while the EU average is 24 percent.

Every year in the Czech Republic around 18,000 smokers die prematurely due to heart attack, stroke or other smoking-related causes.

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