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LN: Czech restaurants trying to soften anti-smoking law impact

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Prague, April 3 (CTK) – Czech restaurant owners are trying to moderate the impact of the law banning smoking in their establishments as of May 31, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday.

The legislation will apply to some 30,000 pubs, restaurants, cafes and other catering establishments as well as culture and sport facilities, unroofed parts of public transport stops and zoos.

Electronic cigarettes will be allowed in restaurants as well as zoos. Smoking rooms can remain in shopping centres and at airports only. The bill also includes restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption.

LN writes that about 2.5 million people smoke cigarettes in the Czech Republic with a population of 10.5 million.

This is why restaurant operators are looking for measures to accommodate smokers and not to discourage them from visiting the establishments.

First, they would like to use the outdoor premises, such as gardens, yards or pavements, to which the ban on smoking does not apply, or extend them if possible.

Hotels can establish special lounges for smokers under certain conditions. Service will not be available in such rooms.
Besides, hotels can have some rooms for smokers, LN adds.

Czech town halls have received a rising number of applications for the installation of gas heaters with umbrellas outside restaurants that would create more comfortable conditions for smokers during adverse weather, LN says.

The Association of Hotels and Restaurants have had a legal expert opinion worked out to show that smoking ban does not apply to restaurant gardens as well as hotel rooms and that hotels can have smoking lounges.

However, LN writes that most pub owners will not establish outdoor areas to attract smokers if this does not pay. They must first take the costs of the plot leasing into consideration.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Stepanka Cechova points out that restaurant owners can, ban smoking on its outdoor premises as well though the law does not require this.

LN writes that the ministry was preparing the anti-smoking legislation or the law on health protection from harmful effects of addictive substances for years and the parliament was dealing with it for further years since it postponed its approval and amended it several times.

The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, passed the legislation in December eventually, while the Senate, the upper house, approved it in January and President Milos Zeman signed it then.

Businesspeople as well as many mayors have sharply criticised the law, saying it would cause the closure of many pubs, mainly in the country. Some senators even claim it is at variance with the constitution, and they have filed a complaint against it with the Constitutional Court (US).

The advocates of the law point out that its final version is a compromise and they consider it too indulgent in some aspects, LN writes.

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