Will Europe’s growing smoking ban trend ever reach the Czech Republic?

Foto: Štěpánka Budková

There was something in the paper during the week about how the Czech Republic has one of the worst records in Europe when it comes to combating smoking. Out of 30 European states surveyed, it came 25th. The fact this country came near the bottom was in no way surprising. After all, many bars and cafes here can be eye-wateringly smoky, and stinking sweaters and even hair are often the price you pay for going out. But the results did provoke the thought, can there really be five countries in Europe where things are even worse in this regard?

The report considered a number of factors, not only protection of non-smokers in public places but also access to treatment for addicts, regulation of advertising and level of tax on tobacco products. And the countries that came out worse than the Czech Republic were not the relatively backwards, eastern states of my knee-jerk imaginings, but included Germany, Austria and Luxembourg.

I personally would just ban cigarettes completely on public health grounds and be done with it. But given the fact I am unlikely ever to become omnipowerful, all I can do is hope the smoking ban that has been so successful elsewhere in Europe comes to the Czech Republic. If the Irish can do it, if the Italians can do it, why can’t the Czechs?

Far be it from me to accuse Czech legislators of being anything other than upstanding servants of their constituents. I’ll leave that to former Christian Democrat MP Jiri Janecek, who told Lidove noviny last week that Czech politicians don’t tackle smoking because this is “one of the most corrupt countries in Europe”. He pointed the finger at the tobacco lobby, which does seem unusually influential and powerful in the Czech Republic.

But can this country really resist a trend which has gathered so much traction around the continent? I think it can. Given the lack of worthwhile debate on the subject, and the fact it seems to hold little or no interest for the Czech Republic’s lawmakers, it’s hard to imagine a change any time in the next few years.

In fact, my guess would be that if a ban on smoking in the workplace does come, it will be a long, long way down the line, perhaps in another ten or 20 years, around the same time the Albanians introduce it.

That said, if Czech politicians do decide to join the modern world and bring in a comprehensive ban sooner than that, I’d be exceedingly happy to be proven wrong.