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Number of Czech non-smokers stagnates due to state´s low support

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Prague, Dec 8 (CTK) – The share of non-smokers in Czech society has stagnated in the past ten years, for which the state´s low support for non-smoking is to blame, Eva Kralikova, head of the Association for Tobacco Addiction Treatment, said yesterday when a debate on the ban on smoking in pubs started in parliament.
Roughly 60 percent of Czechs claim to be non-smokers. Out of them, 38 percent have never smoked in their lives, while 24.4 percent tried smoking, smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in the past and do not smoke any more, Kralikova told CTK, referring to a study released by the State Health Institute (SZU).
The Chamber of Deputies started yesterday a debate on a government-sponsored bill that bans smoking in pubs and wine bars, and markedly restricts the sale of tobacco products online and by vending machines.
Pub owners criticise the bill, which, they say, will deter customers, make pubs´ revenues plummet and force mainly small countryside pubs to close down.
The SZU study was released in 2012, but the data related to smoking have remained unchanged since, Kralikova said.
“No state support for non-smoking exists, which is why the number of non-smokers has not risen in the past ten years,” she said.
She said the ban on smoking in pubs might bring a big progress towards non-smoking, while it would cost taxpayers nothing, Kralikova said.
She said the Czech health sector unnecessarily spends about half a billion crowns a year on treating heart attacks, including the cases of young patients under 60, which need not occur if smoking were eliminated inside [pubs],” Kralikova said.
She said in the countries where smoking is banned inside premises, the number of acute heart attacks has dropped by 15 to 17 percent, which would correspond to 5,500 patients in the Czech Republic.
Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said yesterday he expects a tough battle to break out between the bill´s advocates and opponents in parliament.
Kralikova said the tobacco industry is opposed to effective steps of prevention, which is the ban on smoking in pubs and a higher tax on tobacco.
On the other hand, tobacco producers support other steps, which are correct but not that effective, such as school programmes and the ban on the sale of tobacco to underage persons, Kralikova said.
If smoking is banned in pubs, their profits will rise because a majority of the population are non-smokers. This has proved true in the countries that have imposed the ban, Kralikova said.
However, the sale of cigarettes will decline by 6 to 8 percent, which is a thorn in the flesh of the tobacco lobby, she said.
She said the SZU study has shown that most adult Czechs are for a complete ban on smoking in pubs. Women support it more often than men. Moreover, the ban tends to be supported by people in their middle and old age, university graduates and churchgoers.
The ban´s staunchest opponents are smokers, though even they include a large group of those who would welcome clean air in pubs, the study showed.
rtj/dr/kva

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