For the beginning, it is needed to say, how difficult it would be to imagine a single country that is completely smoke-free. Cigarettes have always been a part of the modern society and they certainly are a source of enormous business. At that point, the Czech Republic is no different from the others. It holds the fourth position in the list of countries by cigarette consumption per capita and it is up to its citizens how to handle the alarming number of 2010 cigarettes smoked per person per year.
Trends in tobacco use in the Czech Republic are quite stable and except for a minor decline in the past few years without significant statistical deflections. To enjoy a couple of beers and cigarettes in a pub, that is the usual daily antidepressant for the average working Czech.
This year, the full European legislation concerning restricting of cigarette consumption has finally reached the Czech Republic. It is important to say that Czechs are among the latest countries to implement this policy. On one hand due to a certain common laxity of the Czech society, both on the level of ordinary citizens and the ruling level. On the other hand it is a fact, that legislation considering cigarettes has never been a significant topic amongst local politics.
The 2009 law, as a first pillar, was aimed on bars and restaurants and obliged their owners to separate the indoor space for smokers and non-smokers. Due to the laxity, certain amount of Czech virtue also with the vague formulation of the law mentioned above, the reality had brought a certain disillusionment. But it was obvious, that it is just a matter of time, until the legislature goes harder on Czechs.
The Czech Republic compared to cigarette legislations of the others European countries is a bit belated. That is probably its stumbling-block. In the majority of the European states, these laws have been valid for some time and moreover are treated with exceptions and specifications. The law is manifested in separate rooms, or it applies only to an establishment of certain size and what’s more to an establishment that only serves food. The Czechs have decided that their law will apply to all establishments with no exceptions.
In the months before the law has been put to practice it caused intense discussions. To tell the truth, these debates haven’t brought anything new into the light. There was only one reasonable solution, to adapt. Some say, that the law favours bigger more profitable establishments, because they do have to resources to adapt smoothly to new conditions. Since it is still allowed to smoke outside the bar, so called beer gardens are crowded with people. Smaller establishments have suffered a certain decrease of customers. Unfortunately, that is the market and the eternal fight for the customer. At the same time, on the political level the cigarette law debate has been very active since 2015 so there has been enough time for the business owners to adapt to these changes in advance. And they naturally still can.
Adoption of the law was simply trouble-free and no significant problems occurred. The only issue seems to be the increased noise during late hours. Police is helpless. By the time they get to the reported place, the people are already gone. Prague came up with its own solution. Special squads that will oversee the disturbances of the night peace. During a rather short time, groups of recessionists have appeared, posing as members of these special squads. That brings incapability to control, impossibility to give feedback.
Some establishments responded to the law by their transformation to so called tobacco clubs. These are however just a negligible percentage. Some opinions say that the clubs are the solution for smoking during winter time. Others think that this solution is just fruitless way of how to escape the effects of the law for as long as it’s possible. What’s interesting is the fact that the opponents are partly smokers as well. External experience of other countries shows us, that those won’t have a very long duration. Above that, due to the interpretations that haven’t been perfectly clear so far, regarding the position of these „Clubs“, there is a real possibility that the activity of these establishments will in the future cease to exist.
What does the future look says. Based on the comparison with other countries, it is unlikely that the law should cause a reduction of the percentage of cigarette users. Furthermore it tells us that it can be assumed, that the legislation in its present form will henceforward function and is unlikely to be cancelled. This year was in fact a bit harsh towards the business owners. First there was the law of Registration of sales and now comes the anti-smoking law. Nevertheless, they all are an element of the market, and the market will cope with or without them. In this sector, as well as in many others, there has always been a fight for the customer. Thus they will have to battle, come up with new strategies of how to find and secure for themselves the clientele for to the future. And what about the rest of us? If history has proven anything in our country, it is that the policies come and go, the laws enrage and divide, but the people endure.