City seeks to address excess cigarette butts

The new anti-smoking law has led to more litter on the streets

Prague City Hall and the Prague 1 district have launched a campaign called We Want a Clean City (Chceme čisté město) to deal with cigarette butts on the sidewalk resulting from the new smoking ban in pubs and restaurants. The ban took effect May 31, and the campaign was launched a day earlier.

At the same time, black-clad patrols to inform people of the new ban have met with criticism from the public.

Leaflets will be given to people explaining the ban, which also covers public transportation stops.

The campaign includes distributing portable ashtrays to smokers so they have some place to put the ends of their cigarettes. The portable plastic ashtrays fit on top of most cigarette packs.

The leaflets are in both English and Czech. Posters will also be distributed to pubs and restaurants asking people to not litter and to maintain quiet on the streets. Prague 1 is also sending information to the mailboxes of its residents.

Cities like Paris and London, which also have smoking bans, have heavy fines for people who throw butts on the sidewalk, along with information campaigns. Prague is following suit. Fines for discarding butts on the sidewalk in Prague can be up to Kč 5,000.

“It is important in the context of the start of the anti-smoking law to focus on the cleanliness of the environment. Cigarette butts are not only a mess on the ground, but few people realize their contents contaminate nature with poisonous substances. That is what our clean city campaign conveys,” Jana Plamínková. Prague city councilor for the environment, said in on the city's website.

Butts make up a large part of the waste swept up from the streets, and they can last for up to 15 years. There is also a risk they can be eaten by pets or children. The butts contain toxic chemicals such as arsenic and polonium.

Prague 1 has also been using private security teams called anti-conflict teams to enforce the noise rules on the street, but this quickly has come under criticism. The team members are not police and have no special powers beyond ordinary citizens. They should inform people of the laws about noise, and in some areas, that it is illegal to drink on the sidewalk. In case of trouble, they should call in the police, who have authority to make arrests or give out fines.

Some people have told the media that instead the teams have made threats of violence and used intimidation tactics, and demanded people use the grammatically formal term of address when speaking to them. The teams are all male, as women were not allowed to apply fearing they could not handle possible aggression.

The teams also wear all-black outfits, which have been criticized for making them look like a gang of hooligans.

The teams actions are filmed, but one team member is alleged to have warned someone to look out once the camera goes off.

City Councilor Petr Kučera (Greens) said he did not think the teams would have a positive effect, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes.

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