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PM, health minister welcome anti-smoking legislation

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Prague, Dec 9 (CTK) – Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) and Health Minister Miloslav Ludvik (CSSD) welcomed the passage of the “anti-smoking bill” in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, Friday.
The bill will fully ban smoking in all restaurants and other similar facilities as of the end of May, 2017. It also includes further restrictions on smoking as well as alcohol sale and consumption.
The approval of the bill means the victory of the protection of people’s health over commercial interests, Sobotka told reporters.
Ludvik said he expected a stormy debate on the legislation in the Senate, the upper house, but that he hoped “a sensible healthy opinion” would prevail there as well.
Sobotka also expressed hope that the Senate would approve the bill.
“We have sent a signal that the government really means its effort to include the Czech Republic among civilised countries that protect the health of their citizens and are also able to suppress other interests, for instance, commercial ones, because of it,” Sobotka said.
Ludvik told reporters that health protection had finally won over the tobacco producers’ lobby and interests.
“This is the best piece of news for the Czech Republic,” he said.
He pointed to the problem of many children smoking in the Czech Republic. However, this legislation is crucial to restrict that, he added.
Deputies debated the bill previously, but they rejected it in May.
Sobotka said he was glad that they had supported it after a more than two-hour debate. However, he called Friday’s long debate on the bill absurd.
Apart from Ludvik, Sobotka also thanked his predecessor Svatopluk Nemecek (CSSD) for the bill.
The government ANO movement welcomed that unlike the previous version, the passed bill did to include the duty for restaurants to offer at least one non-alcoholic beverage, including tapped water, cheaper than the cheapest alcoholic one of the same volume. This might force the restaurants which have so far offered water for free to charge money for it, ANO representatives told reporters Friday.
On the other hand, opposition TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek criticised the bill, calling it a business regulation.
He told reporters that he would vote for the bill under “normal circumstances,” but that he had rejected it as it was another of the regulatory measures of the government of the CSSD, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) aimed against private entrepreneurs.

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