It seems the majority of Europeans smoke, but in the Czech Republic, they take it to a whole new level. I’ve traveled to several European Countries, but in Czech, smoking is something you can’t help but notice. It’s like going back to the 20’s or something, people are smoking inside many building like they haven’t heard that it is bad for your health. It seemed to me that smoking was nearly anywhere and everywhere.
I remember seeing a group of girls that couldn’t be older than 14 sitting on some benches and every one of them had a cigarette in their hand. It was crazy to witness such a thing, especially coming from such a conservative state as Utah where they give out smoking tickets like parking tickets. Later on my trip, I was quite shocked when I walked into a coffee shop and everyone was smoking.
In Czech Republic there is no minimum legal smoking age. You have to be at least 18 to purchase the product, but it is not heavily enforced. It was only as recent as 2006 that smoking in certain places such as schools, hospitals and theaters was banned. Many places are still smoke friendly. Czech Republic is the only European Union state that still allows smoking in restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and other establishments.
When we visited in 2011, one of our tour guides told us that smoking was quite an epidemic in the Country and that a large campaign movement was underway to help educate citizens on the health concerns of smoking. It seems this campaign hasn’t helped much, or perhaps was never implemented, as no new bans have been passed since my visit.
It is said that the government has been quite resistant on the ban due to the significant tax contribution it has on the country. I ran across a December, 2013 article regarding the issue that I found quite interesting. I inserted a clip below, which is a direct quote from the Czech president. For the full article, you can click on the link below the quote.
“I myself only started smoking when I was 27 years old, when my body had fully developed and tobacco could no longer harm it. So let me recommend your children to do the same; wait until the age of 27 and then smoke without any risk whatsoever,” said the president, speaking at a Philip Morris cigarette factory in Kutna Hora––about 45 miles outside of Prague––in early October.
In summary, the Czech Republic seems to definitely be behind the times on tobacco regulation and health concern. If you are an American popping over for a visit, brace yourself for a blast back to the early 80’s.