Prague 1 to use patrols when smoking ban starts

Noise, cigarette butts and concentrated smoke are expected to be issues

A Czech law banning smoking in pubs and restaurants will take effect May 31, which is World No Tobacco Day. Prague's districts are already planning for ways to address the expected problems with large groups of smokers on the street near pub entrances creating large volumes of concentrated smoke as well as noise. Street patrols will be used to break up large groups.

The new ban applies to all pubs and restaurants but has an exception for electronic cigarettes and hookahs. Smokers will be allowed to smoke in outdoor seating areas, called gardens, and outside the pub. The amendment also extends to banning the sale of hard alcohol at sporting events and has an absolute ban on alcohol, including beer, at children's events.

The Prague 1 district has allocated Kč 600,000 to hire an external company that will provide four patrols of three people each. They will primarily patrol in the touristy areas to deal with noisy smokers. The posted job requirements are for people between 18 and 45 years old in good physical condition and with a knowledge of foreign languages.

“Cigarette smoke can annoy people [who live] above pubs. On the street there will be noise and also cigarette butts,” Prague 1 Mayor Oldřich Lomecký told daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

Prague 4 is opting for a different solution, at least to the cigarette butt problem. The district is going to launch a campaign called “Don't throw butts on the ground” (Neházejte nedopalky na zem) when the ban takes effect. The district will give away pouches to hold cigarette boxes and butts.

The law does not only affect Prague. It covers the entire country. Brno, South Moravia, is simply planning to hire 10 more street cleaners to deal with butts on the sidewalk. The Brno-střed district in that city's center also wants to allow pub owners to put ashtrays on the street without paying a fee. Currently, pubs have to pay an administrative fee to use any sidewalk space for signs or other items including standup ashtrays.

Legal experts say the law is hard to circumvent, but one way would be to create a private club that allows smoking. Some pub owners are still seeking to overturn the law, but the trend in Europe has been for pubs and eateries to be nonsmoking. The Czech Republic has been one of the last places in the EU to allow it.

Some three out of four people in the Czech Republic favor the smoking ban. Only 28 percent of Czech people smoke, which about 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.

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