President Klaus infuriates doctors with stance on smoking-ban

President Klaus is famous for his views on Co2 emissions – namely that they are not responsible for climate change. Now, he has shifted his gaze to smoking, and angered other elements of the scientific community, suggesting that passive smoking might not be the health risk that it’s made out to be. As Czech MPs start debating whether smoking should be banned in the country’s restaurants, Mr Klaus has told the press that such a ban would deny smokers their rights, and that the effects of passive smoking are less dangerous than people say.

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK
President Klaus is not a smoker, but is fervently against any sort of smoking-ban in the country’s restaurants. He has even been quoted as saying that a smoking-ban would infringe upon smokers’ human rights. Eva Králíková is a specialist in smoking-related diseases, she is stunned by Mr Klaus’s comments:

“I see it in exactly the opposite way, because the freedom to breathe fresh air and clean air seems to be more important to me.”

Eva Králíková
On Tuesday, Mr Klaus told the media that he thought it was probably just as harmful to sit in a pub and drink two bottles of wine as it was to sit in the same pub and breathe in the smoke of someone sitting ten metres away. Again, here’s Eva Králíková:

“I could hardly believe that he really said this. Passive smoking doesn’t just cause a bad smell, but also diseases and death. Since 1981, we have several thousand studies showing not only incidents of lung cancer in passive smokers, but also chronic obstructive bronchopulmonary disease and also many other diseases.”

Mr Klaus’s comments come on the eve of a parliamentary vote on whether smoking should be banned in the country’s restaurants. Kateřina Konečná is a Communist MP who will be voting on the bill. Despite being a heavy smoker, she is all for the ban. She explains why:

“I think that smokers and non-smokers should have the same human rights, but there are not as many smokers in the Czech Republic as there are non-smokers. And I think that this ban would be the best way to enforce the law for non-smokers, because right now it is a very big problem. For example, I live in a town where there are no non-smoking restaurants, and it’s a big problem when I go into a restaurant with my friends who have children to sit and chat. I understand Mr Klaus, but he is a liberal, and it is not possible to be liberal about this matter.”

Mr Klaus may have angered scientists with his views on smoking, but he is far from being the only Czech opposed to a smoking-ban. Deputies have refused to support a ban on smoking in restaurants on a number of previous occasions and observers say it may be a long time before Czech lawmakers adopt the stringent laws in place in other European states.