Health data show smoking ban is effective

Photo: Kristýna Maková

The anti-smoking bill, which was introduced in the Czech Republic in May last year, has already had a positive effect on people’s health, according to newly released data by the Prague-based Institute of Health Information and Data. Doctors and anti-smoking campaigners say it is a strong argument against proposals to soften the ban.

Eva Králíková | Photo: Marián Vojtek,  Czech Radio
The comparative study, which covers the period between June of 2016 and November 2017, when smoking in pubs, restaurants and other facilities was strictly banned, shows that there were over 13 percent fewer heart attacks and 16 percent less patients hospitalised with heart problems.

Eva Králíková, the country’s leading anti-smoking campaigner, notes that the data are only preliminary, but confirms that they definitely show a positive trend:

“The institute compared the number of hospitalisations due to acute heart attack and other cardiovascular diagnoses as well as acute asthma and the decrease was significant, especially in the age group under 60, which suggests that it happened due to smoke-free legislation.

“Altogether it is around 9,000 hospitalisations less during those five months. This means it could be about 20,000 less per year, which is a significant difference.”

The anti-smoking bill has been in force in the Czech Republic for less than a year, but there have already been several attempts to soften the ban.

The Lower House of Parliament is currently debating whether to pass a proposal put forward by Civic Democrat deputy Marek Benda into its first reading.

The proposal envisages creating separate smoking areas in pubs with their own ventilation and suggests that bars with an area of 80 square meters or smaller could decide themselves whether to allow smoking or not.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 Czech doctors have already signed a petition opposing any attempts to re-open a debate on the smoking ban.

Although it will take several more years before doctors can reliably assess the effect of the ban on other diseases, such as cancer of COPD, Eva Králíková says the preliminary data concerning cardiovascular diseases are a firm argument against any concessions to the anti-smoking bill.

She also notes that the current trend copies the development in other countries, which adopted the ban earlier than the Czech Republic. And she says that besides health issues, there are other arguments why smoking should be banned:

“Besides health, smoking also presents an economic burden to the society and to the hospitality industry. Despite the arguments of the tobacco industry there has been a constant increase in the number of people employed in the hospitality industry since 2016.

“And we can see the same trend also in the income of the industry. So there was no drop after the adoption of the anti-smoking bill.”