Anti-smoking law starts May 31

Smokers will have to comply right away but pubs have 90 days to put up signs

At midnight on May 30 to 31, the new anti-smoking legislation will take effect. At first it will have a larger impact on smokers than on proprietors of pubs and restaurants.

From the start, smokers face a Kč 5,000 fine for lighting up where it is not allowed. Operators of establishments, though, have 90 days to put up signs informing people where they can and can't smoke and to make other arrangements under the law.

One problem with the law that experts cite is the definition of indoors and outdoors, and whether some spaces outside of pubs and restaurants and legally considered outdoors as far as smoking is concerned. At times, it is a gray area. Arcades on the street that are in front of a restaurant, but covered on top by a building overhang, for example, may be called indoors in some cases.

This can leave smokers confused as to where they can smoke, and they can still be held legally responsible, despite the lack of clear signs.

After years of effort, a smoking ban was passed by the Chamber of Deputies in December 2016, and subsequently passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Miloš Zeman, who is a heavy smoker. Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček (ČSSD) had worked for three years to get the law passed, and there were efforts in previous administrations as well.

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. Electronic cigarettes are not covered by the ban, though, and there are exemptions for water pipes.

The ban also includes the uncovered parts of public transportation stops and zoos. The sale of alcoholic beverages in vending machines will also not be allowed.

Most members of the European Union already have similar smoking bans. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) said when the bill was passed that that the law will bring the Czech Republic up to the same level as civilized countries regarding protecting the health of its citizens.

Some three out of four people in the Czech Republic favor a smoking ban. Only 28 percent of Czech people smoke, which about about four percentage points higher than the EU average. The previous attempt to pass a ban in May 2016 failed to gain enough support, due in part to a proposal calling for bars to serve a non-alcoholic beverage as cheap or cheaper than the lowest-price alcoholic beverage. This provision was not included in the new law.

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