It’s official – as of last month smoking in public places is now illegal in the Czech Republic.
The law was approved in February of this year, after Czech President Milos Zeman followed through on his promise to approve the bill as long as it had the support of Parliament. It officially came into effect on 31 May.
So, what exactly will the ban involve? Here are some of the key things that will change:
- Smoking will be banned in all cafes, restaurants, bars, and pubs
- There is also a ban on smoking at public transport stops, in entertainment venues like nightclubs, in hospitals, and in schools
- There will be no specially designated smoking rooms
- Part of the law prohibits the sale of alcohol stronger than 4.3% from being sold at sports events, and also bans the sale of alcohol in vending machines at these same events
There seems to be a lot to remember, and public opinion is divided over the ban.
This includes some senators who have outright opposed the move, claiming it’s an example of the government interfering in the public’s lives, and an attack on personal freedoms.
This isn’t the first time such a ban was attempted – but it has always failed in the past for one reason or another. It’s unclear how successful it will be this time round, or how exactly it will be enforced, but it’s definitely provoking some conversations.
The implementation of the ban coincides with the beginning of summer, so at least smoking aficionados won’t have to stand outside in the cold to enjoy a cigarette – although the large crowds congregating outside pubs and bars could spark some noise complaints from residents living above them.
Others have expressed concern that the ban will damage the profits of restaurants and bars, as heavy smokers will simply opt to stay at home.
Only time will tell, but a popular counter-argument is that even if some smokers are discouraged from going to the pub, their numbers will be offset by non-smokers and families who might start going out more if they can be sure of a smoke-free environment.
Police have been making routine checks on bars this week, with a possible maximum fine of 5000 CZK for anybody caught violating the law. The owners of the establishments will get off lightly for now – they have 90 days from the start of the ban where they won’t be fined if people smoke on their premises.
Across Prague, bar staff seem to be scrambling to set up outdoor seating areas, to provide their customers with a place to sit and smoke. With the recent hot weather, it seems many places have more customers outside than inside.
More seats for the non-smokers, I guess…