Expert: Smoking “definitely biggest problem” among addictions in Czechia
Cigarettes are getting increasingly more expensive in Czechia, but recent data suggests that as much as a quarter of people over the age of 15 are smokers. On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, we spoke to Dr Eva Králíková, who heads a stop smoking clinic at Prague’s General Faculty Hospital, asking her how big of an issue smoking is in Czechia when compared with other addictions.
“It definitely is a big issue. Smoking kills about 16,000 to 18,000 people annually in Czechia, compared to alcohol that kills around 5,000 to 7,000 and drugs that, at most, kill around 500 people a year. These other addictions are also a problem of course, but smoking is definitely the biggest problem.”
A decade ago, Czechia ranked 7th among OECD countries in terms of the proportion of the population that were smokers. Have there been any improvements since then?
“A very slight improvement, but not a big one. For the years 2021 and 2022, the proportion of smokers is about the same. It’s around 24 percent from the age of 15 and above. This is about twice as much as in the UK, Australia and the United States. They are at around 11 or 12 percent, so we are not good when it comes to the prevalence of smoking.”
You said that close to a quarter of the relevant population are smokers in Czechia. Do you mean by this that they are specifically cigarette smokers, or do you count e-cigarette smokers into this statistic as well? And what about this phenomenon of e-cigarettes in general? Is it dangerous?
“There are discussions about the definition of smoking. However, according to my understanding smoking means that you inhale smoke. In the case of e-cigarettes there is no smoke, or no inhaled smoke, so the vaping of e-cigarettes may not be called smoking.
“What we do have, as in other countries, is people reaching for alternatives forms of nicotine. Especially young people.”
You have said that the situation hasn’t improved much over the past decade.
You have compared the situation in Czechia with that in some other countries such as Britain or the US, showing that it is considerably higher here. You have been critical of how the Czech state approaches tobacco addiction in the past. Have you seen any improvements recently and what sorts of changes do you think are needed going forwards?
“There have been some improvements in the taxation of cigarettes. Unfortunately, the government also wants to increase the tax on purchasing smokeless tobacco products, such as nicotine pouches. Electronic cigarettes are certainly the less dangerous form of ingesting nicotine, but there have been some suggestions to raise the tax on these products significantly higher.
“That should not be the case. I think that we should have much higher tax increases on burnt tobacco products such as cigarettes and on heated tobacco too where the health risk is very close to that of smoking. We should know that there is a substantial difference between e-cigarettes and heated tobacco because the latter contains much higher amounts of toxic substances. Also, tobacco that you can use to roll your own cigarettes is still substantially cheaper than conventional cigarettes. This should not be the case.”
Today is World No Tobacco Day. Perhaps there are some smokers there who have decided that today is their D-Day when they really try to stop. You, of course, run your own clinic at the General Faculty Hospital in Prague where you help smokers. How would you encourage them to stop and what are the most common methods of how to help them stop smoking?
“Substantial help of course increases the likelihood of success. What I would say to them is that it definitely is a good decision to stop smoking. However, if you try on your own without help, the success rate is likely very low. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad person because you didn’t manage to stop smoking without help. It means that you should try to find some help.
“For example, on slzt.cz, which is the website of the Society for for curing tobacco dependence (Společnost pro léčbu závislosti na tabáku). You can find around 40 centres there that are aimed at curing tobacco dependence, as well as nearly 200 pharmacies that offer consultations, more than 200 ambulance doctors, as well as a quit line and many relevant apps that are free to download.
“You can also give some questions to a relevant doctor online there. So there are many options when it comes to increasing the likelihood of successfully quitting.”