Prague, May 31 (CTK) – The excise tax on cigarettes will keep rising gradually in the Czech Republic in the years to come, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) told reporters on Wednesday when the law banning smoking in all restaurants and other public establishments takes effect.

The main factor in people’s decision-making on whether they will start smoking is the price of a cigarette packet, according to experts. They say especially young people are sensitive to a high price.

“We are gradually increasing tax on cigarettes. I suppose that it is going to rise in the following years as well. This is a coordinated approach within the EU. It might happen that if the rates differed too much, it would boost the import of cigarettes and the state might be losing money from excise tax,” Sobotka said.

The state annually collects some 80 billion crowns in excise tax on tobacco. However, experts estimate that it pays 100 billion crowns a year for the treatment of diseases related to smoking and for anti-smoking programmes.

“You can buy almost twice many cigarette packets for an average pay now than 20 years ago,” Eva Kralikova, head of the Association for Treatment of Tobacco Addiction, said.

The national average gross monthly pay was more than 29,300 crowns in the Czech Republic at the end of last year.

Nine in ten smokers started smoking before they turned 18, Kralikova said.

According to a poll conducted by the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University, which Kralikova mentioned, about one-fifth of smokers would not have started smoking if the ban on smoking in restaurants and other public places had been introduced earlier.

About 2000 people die in the Czech Republic as a consequence of passive smoking a year, which is about thrice more than the road death toll, Health Minister Miloslav Ludvik (CSSD) said.

“The highest share of passive smoking is exactly in restaurants. Not only their visitors, but also their personnel suffer from it,” Ludvik added.

The law that bans smoking in restaurants, theatres, cinemas, unroofed parts of public transport stops, playgrounds and on other public premises took effect on Wednesday.

It also bans e-cigarettes in hospitals, schools and shopping centres, as well as the sale of cigarettes in vending machines. However, e-cigarettes will be still allowed in restaurants. Smoking rooms will be still available at shopping centres and airports and there will be separate smoking outdoor areas in zoos.