Support for Czech cigarette ban still strong after smoke free year

Photo: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

It’s almost a year to the day since the Czech Republic finally moved to ban smoking in bars, cafes, and restaurants. And while the ban is still a live issue with sporadic attempts to change the law, a survey commissioned by Charles University shows support is still strong among Czechs and suggests that there are a lot of myths about its impact.

Photo: Pixabay,  CC0 Public Domain
After years of discussion, the Czech Republic joined the widening group of European countries banning smoking in pubs, restaurants, and cafes on May 31, 2017. Cigarettes may have been stubbed out since then, but the issue is still a burning one. Backers of the ban say the health benefits are already being felt by the Czech population. Opponents argue that it has forced many pubs to close, especially in small villages where the impact might be most keenly felt.

With an eye on the upcoming anniversary, Charles University’s Faculty of Social Sciences commissioned a poll by the Ipsos agency on the latest public perception of the ban and some of the trends associated with it. And that has exploded a few myths.

The headline finding is perhaps that overall support for the ban is still strong, at around 71 percent with more Czechs moving into the category of strong supporters. On the other hand, opposition to the ban still stands at around 12 percent, mostly from a hard core of smokers. Around a quarter of all adult Czechs are smokers with around 10 percent of the population coming under the category heavy smokers.

But the findings in other areas are perhaps more surprising. One is the fact that Czechs now appear to be going more often to pubs and restaurants than before the ban was put in place. Denisa Hejlová led the research project at Charles University:

ʺAfter the ban on smoking in restaurants, the restaurants somehow become more family friendly and children friendly. More people who are non-smokers go to the restaurants of the people just go more often because they don’t feel the smoke all over their flat after they come back.ʺ

Photo: Lenka Žižková
That influx of non-smokes to pubs and restaurants has boosted the figures of regulars who are there almost every day, three or four times a week, and several times a month and squeezed the proportion of Czechs who say a drink and a meal out is an exceptional event. The fact that the economy is doing well and many Czechs now have spare cash in their pockets is reckoned to be another factor.

And while pubs and brewers have sometimes suggested that the smoking ban is responsible for lower beer sales, the latest poll challenges that argument and suggests that there are wider trends at play especially among young Czechs. Denisa Hejlová again:

ʺBeer consumption is lower because young people drink less beer. That is the main factor. They favour alcoholic drinks, cocktails, or wine.ʺ

Whereas around seven percent of people say they are drinking more beer than a year ago, around 11 percent say they are drinking less beer. And the biggest group among the latter are those aged between 18 and 29.