Anti-tobacco lobbyists call for more effort in enforcing smoking legislation


This time last year, a new smoking law went into effect banning smoking in public places such as cinemas, schools, and bus and tram stops. But is this enough to bring down the number of smoke-related illnesses? Today one year after the law was introduced, Czech anti-smoking lobbyists say it is not, but it would still be a step in the right direction if the state ensured that the current law was respected. Dita Asiedu reports:

Between 50 and 60 people die of smoking-related diseases every day in the Czech Republic. An estimated 2 million of the country's population of ten million are smokers, with 800,000 of these under the age of 18. But the rest of the population who don't smoke are also at risk from the effects of smoking. In a bar or restaurant, the smoke inhaled by a passive smoker is often even more hazardous than that inhaled directly by smokers, says Eva Kralikova one of the country's leading experts on smoking-related illnesses:

"Passive smoking is not about bothering someone with some bad smell but it's a danger to one's health. The side stream smoke is more concentrated than the mainstream smoke that the smoker inhales directly. That's because of the [lower] burning temperature when the cigarette is in the ashtray. The American Cardiology Society says that one of the most important publications in 2005 was the fact that the [health] risk of passive smoking is almost as big as that of active smoking - 80 to 90 percent."

Czech anti-smoking lobbyists point out that the country lacks an effective control system. They say health risks would be reduced significantly if people were forced to respect the law. A public place is also a concert or a football game. Here, the law is still being broken. Dr. Kralikova:

"We should inform the population why it is good to have a smoke-free policy. In Ireland, for example, when they adopted smoke-free legislation in 2004 they hired 30 people at the Ministry of Health just to explain to the population why the legislation is good for Ireland. If we compare this to the number of inhabitants then there should be 70 people at the Czech Health Ministry to explain to the population why we should have a smoke-free legislation. There is not even one person at the ministry responsible for tobacco control."

There have been numerous attempts by individual Members of Parliament to introduce a stricter smoking law, but they all failed at rallying up enough support from their colleagues. This year, a Civic Democrat MP hopes to push through a law that requires restaurants to separate smoking from no-smoking sections with a wall. Whether his attempt will be successful has yet to be seen. Some say the country lacks stricter smoke-free legislation because of a strong tobacco lobby; others believe the country's numerous smoking deputies are to blame.