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Tobacco consumption in the Czech Republic ranks among the highest globally, while anti-smoking measures are among the poorest worldwide

Smoking is one of the most important known risk factors for cancer. Most European countries are well aware of this fact, and have adopted various measures aimed at decreasing the number of smokers among the population, which should not only improve the population’s state of health, but also save costs for treatment of smoking-related diseases. Unfortunately, international studies and comparisons have shown that the Czech Republic is miles apart from those countries.

Image courtesy of hin255 / FreeDigitalPhotos.netSmoking is the most important risk factor not only for cancer, but also for many other causes of premature death, mainly cardiovascular diseases and lung diseases. However, smoking is a largely preventable risk factor, particularly if the legislation and established practice in a given country protects at least non-smokers. In fact, more than 10% of tobacco-related deaths occur among non-smokers, as indicated by WHO (more than 600 000 in nearly 6 million tobacco-related deaths each year are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke) [1].

Smoking prevalence in individual countries was recently reported in an OECD publication, Health at a Glance 2013 [2]. According to data from 2011, which evaluated the proportion of daily smokers, the Czech Republic ranked 7th among OECD countries, with 24.6% of daily smokers among the population aged 15 years and over (Fig. 1). Male rates were higher (30.0%) than female rates (19.4%). The fact that the Czech Republic is the only country among 34 monitored countries which saw an increase in this proportion since 2000 (by 5%) is particularly alarming (Fig. 2). Smoking among 15-year-olds presents a serious challenge for public health, too: 22% of boys and 28% of girls aged 15 reported smoking at least once a week [2]. In terms of cigarette consumption, the Czech Republic ranks 10th in Europe, with 2,125 cigarettes per adult per year [3].

As mentioned above, it should be in the interest of any country to decrease smoking prevalence rates, and thus contribute to a lower risk of development of serious illnesses in the population. The Association of European Cancer Leagues compared the so-called “Tobacco Control Scale” among European countries [4], i.e. a scale designed to evaluate anti-smoking policies of any country [5]. The scale consists of several parts which have different weights: prica and taxation of cigarettes, restrictions or complete ban on smoking in public places, spending on public information campaigns, comprehensive bans on advertising and promotion of tobacco products, large direct health warning labels on packages, and support to help dependent smokers stop.

Among European countries ranked by the total TCS score in 2013, the Czech Republic was placed 31st (among 34 evaluated countries, Fig. 3). Interestingly, countries traditionally associated with a huge popularity of tobacco products – such as France, Spain, Ukraine, or Turkey – ranked among the top ten. In a short comment on the Czech Republic, authors noted that there is a strong tobacco industry presence in the country, and that all three Czech Presidents have openly defended tobacco industry interests.

Figure 1: Ranking of 34 OECD countries according to the proportion of daily smokers aged 15 years and over [2].
Figure 2: Trends in the prevalence of daily smokers aged 15 years and over between years 2000 and 2011 [2].
Figure 3: Evaluation of individual European countries according to the Tobacco Control Scale [4].

It is obvious from the presented results that smoking presents a serious challenge in the Czech Republic, and that a significant impact on the society and its health can be expected. Sadly, the authorities have made almost no effort in order to change this situation, and there is no suggestion that it is likely to happen any time soon. Taking into account other important risk factors prevailing among the Czech population (such as alcohol consumption or obesity rates), it is very likely that incidence rates of serious diseases, including cancer, will further grow in future, and that this trend will be accompanied by growing treatment costs.


  1. WHO. Tobacco, Fact Sheet No. 339 [Internet]. WHO Geneva. Available from WWW:
  2. OECD. Health at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing, Paris, 2014. Available from WWW:
  3. The Tobacco Atlas [Internet]. Available from WWW:
  4. Joossens L, Raw M. The Tobacco Control Scale 2013 in Europe. Association of European Cancer Leagues, Brussels, 2014. Available from WWW:
  5. Joossens L, Raw M. The Tobacco Control Scale: a new scale to measure country activity. Tobacco Control 2006; 15: 247-253.


2. 4. 2014 IBA MU