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Half of Czechs Aged 15 to 24 Use Nicotine Products, Says Survey

Half of young Czechs aged 15 to 24 use nicotine products, one-third of them daily, according to the 2023 NAUTA survey on tobacco and alcohol use in the Czech Republic, conducted by the National Health Institute (SZU), Health Minister Vlastimil Valek (TOP 09) told a press conference yesterday.

In the whole population, one-third use some nicotine products and a quarter smoke classic cigarettes.

SZU representatives said that over 1,800 people responded to the survey last year.

Valek said his ministry supports further tax increases on nicotine products and alcoholic beverages, for which they should be based on alcohol content. He will also support a tax on high-sugar drinks if the Finance Ministry proposes it.

The survey showed that a large proportion of users of alternative nicotine products believe they are less harmful than classic cigarettes.

“If someone is a very heavy smoker, it’s definitely better if they switch to less dangerous alternatives,” Valek said. But he added that they cannot be considered safe.

Smoking classic tobacco products that burn has long been linked by doctors to an increased risk of lung cancer. For the effects of nicotine without combustion products, research is only short-term, said Valek, but links have been found to heart disease and gastrointestinal cancer.

“We don’t know yet if the reduced risk of cancer is outweighed by the increased cardiovascular risk,” he said.

The survey showed that about 25% of smokers were users of traditional tobacco products, including half of those who also smoke e-cigarettes.

The proportion of e-cigarette users increased to 11% in 2023 from about 1% a decade ago, according to the survey. Around 30% of those who now use e-cigarettes, mainly young people, were never smokers of classic cigarettes.

Nicotine sachets are used by about 11% of young respondents aged 15 to 24, and more than 3% of people in this age group had tried products with the psychoactive substance kratom.

Almost 20% of deaths in the Czech Republic are related to smoking and 6% to drinking alcohol, SZU director Barbora Mackova said.

Almost half of men drink beer once a week or more often, and a quarter of women drink wine as often, the SZU survey showed. Alcohol consumption is 6.9 litres per person per year, rising to 8 litres if those who don’t drink at all are excluded. Alcohol consumption is more frequent among smokers.

Valek said it is appropriate to grant benefits to people who take more care of their health, but he also wants to have a debate about sanctioning those who deliberately harm their health. He considers taxing alcohol or nicotine users to be the main sanction.

Abolishing the zero excise duty on still wine is one of the experts’ proposals. Some parts of the government coalition support this, but the leader of the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), Marian Jurecka, said a week ago that he did not see a majority in parliament for taxing still wine.

Valek said he considers it unrealistic that doctors would somehow test their patients to determine their physical condition or smoking status, and calculate their contributions to the health insurance system accordingly.

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