Czech government approves ban on smoking in restaurants and bars

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech government approved a draft bill to ban smoking in restaurants and bars and move the country into line with restrictions in place in much of the European Union.

Two shots of liquor are seen at a bar in Prague September 12, 2012. REUTERS/David W Cerny

The Czech Republic is the last EU member to allow unrestricted smoking in restaurants. Past governments have tried to enact such restrictions but run into opposition.

The draft bill must still pass parliament before it can be signed into law by President Milos Zeman, himself a regular smoker.

A quarter of Czechs smoke, putting it just below the EU average of 26 percent, according to Eurobarometer.

“With this law, the Czech Republic will embark on a path where the majority of advanced western European countries have gone a long time ago,” Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek said after the center-left cabinet approved the measure.

Seventeen of the 28 EU states have a total ban on smoking in indoor public places, public transport and workplaces, according to the European Commission. Others have restrictions in various areas.

The proposed Czech legislation would follow that and introduce a ban on smoking, including e-cigarettes, at concerts and other indoor entertainment and sports facilities.

The bill also includes a provision requiring restaurants and bars to offer at least one non-alcoholic drink cheaper on the menu than the cheapest alcoholic drink.

The Czech Republic is one of the world’s biggest per capita beer drinkers and its pub culture and brews are a strong tourist draw.

Philip Morris CR, a unit of Philip Morris International, has a factory in the country.

Separately on Wednesday, the cabinet approved a plan that will raise the price of cigarette packs by 3-4 Czech crowns next year. A pack costs 70-115 crowns now, according to the bill.

Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller; editing by Ralph Boulton