No Smoking: After a long battle in Parliament, the Czech Republic finally adopts smoking ban
One last hurdle – the signature of Czech President Miloš Zeman –before the so called Anti-Smoking Bill enters into force on 31 May 2017.
On 19 January 2017, the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic approved the government bill of the Act on Protection from the Harmful Effects of Addictive Substances (the "Bill"), which is due to enter into force on 31 May 2017, subject to signature by the President.
The Bill follows lengthy political debates and battles pitting the interests of various stakeholders (politicians, lobbyists, corporations and health-protection institutions) against each other, which for many years have hindered any reasonable progress at the legislative level. As a result, the general public has become frustrated and sceptical about the real chances of the Czech Republic ever becoming smoke-free. Although the President has yet to sign the Bill, he has expressed support for it (despite himself being an avid smoker), and it is already perceived by many as a pleasant surprise and a historical victory.
Act on Protection from the Harmful Effects of Addictive Substances
The Bill repeals the current Act No. 379/2005 Coll., on Measures on Protection from Harms Caused by Tobacco Products, Alcohol and other Addictive Substances. The Bill regulates the use and sale of all addictive substances, including alcohol, cigarettes, smoking tools and electronic cigarettes. Among other things, the Bill modifies the current system of regulation of the use and sale of products designated for smoking, with the most relevant changes being:
- new definition of smoking tools and electronic cigarettes;
- expanded and modified scope of smoking ban; and
- new regulation of sale of tobacco products, smoking tools and electronic cigarettes, including distance sale.
New definition of electronic cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes are newly (more broadly) defined as "products which may be used for inhalation of nicotine or other fumes", meaning that non-nicotine electronic cigarettes are also drawn into the scope of application of the Bill – including the smoking ban.
The most significant changes to the current legislation are apparent in the regulation of smoking bans, which apply to both tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.
The Bill abandons the list of places where smoking is prohibited (current legislation) and simply extends the ban to smoking in all interior premises that are freely accessible to the public. It further expressly expands the smoking ban to:
- transit areas at international airports;
- shelters and waiting rooms for public transport;
- public transportation (buses, trams, etc.);
- medical establishments (hospitals, clinics, etc.) and in related operational facilities;
- schools and educational establishments, including establishments aimed at the provision of childcare, and in premises where extracurricular education is carried out;
- zoos (with the exception of electronic cigarettes);
- all internal premises of all sporting grounds;
- all internal premises aimed at providing entertainment (e.g. concert halls, cinemas, clubs, etc.); and
- all internal premises of restaurants and establishments providing catering services (e.g. cafés, bars, etc.), with the exceptionof water pipes and electronic cigarettes.
Exceptions to the ban
In the case of:
- publicly accessible internal premises;
- transit areas at international airports;
- psychiatric wards and establishments for treating addictions (Section 8 (1) (e) of the Bill); and
smoking is allowed in structurally separated premises. The term “structurally separated premises" is precisely defined (e.g. must not allow the passage or leakage of smoke to premises where smoking is prohibited), must be clearly labelled as such, whereas only persons above the age of 18 shall be allowed into such smoking premises.
The Bill does not provide any such exemptions for other locations, such as bars or restaurants, where, on the other hand, the use of electronic cigarettes is allowed.
In addition, local municipalities may further expand the ban on smoking by prohibiting smoking in publicly accessible open premises in the vicinity of schools, school establishments or other premises reserved for activities of persons under the age of 18.
Sanctions for non-compliance
Smoking in premises where smoking is prohibited constitutes an administrative offence for which a fine of up to CZK 5,000 (approx. EUR 185) may be imposed.
Further to the obligation to comply with the smoking ban, owners or operators of premises where smoking is prohibited are also required to ensure compliance with the smoking ban (e.g. asking a person violating the ban to leave the premises, labelling separated premises for smoking). Failure to comply with these obligations may result in an administrative fine of up to CZK 50,000 (approx. EUR 1,850).