Slovakia and its failure to abide by the European law

Slovakia EU 2018.jpg

From left to right: Mr Peter PELLEGRINI, Slovak Prime Minister; Mr Donald TUSK, President of the European Council. Copyright: European Union

This article was exclusively written for the The European Sting by Ms. Barbara Čolláková, a fourth-year medical student at the Pavol Jozef Safarik
University in Kosice
. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

“Oh no.” My friend says as we stand at a public tram stop and a second later, I can see two police officers walking down the street. The cigarette in my friend’s hand disappears at the speed of light.

Nothing about this scene surprises me.

Slovakia banned smokers from public spaces with an anti-tobacco law established in 2004. With the protection of non-smokers in mind, the legislation was updated in the year 2009 when most public buildings including restaurants and other food-serving establishments were forced to create a non-smoking zone or ban from smoking completely. The transition happened rather slowly. There was an abundance of restaurants and pubs that tried to get around the law with fabric curtains and other ineffective equipment.

Thankfully, it seems that all of that is in the past. Slovakia has become a safe place when it comes to enjoying a nice dinner out in the city without secondhand tobacco smoke.

However, there is still a long way to go until it will be possible to exit a bus and breathe in a clean fresh air.  According to European health interview survey from 2014, total number of smokers in Slovakia reached 22.6%, which is among the highest out of European Union countries.

Apart from these high numbers, why is it so easy for Slovaks to ignore the law and continue smoking outside as they please?

The answers vary depending on the point of view. As a medical student, surrounded by smokers that are health care professionals and very much aware of the risks associated with cigarette abuse, I would be rather cautious to say that the anti-smoking campaigns should be even more aggressive and that the population is not educated enough.

It is important to make the information about health risks and diseases available to the public, yes. But what solution is there when even the most educated health care workers themselves ignore the no-smoking signs?

As for Slovakia, I strongly believe it is the mentality of people that keeps the country stuck. The rejection of change of any kind and blind belief that the old way is the right way is what keeps plenty of people believing that they don’t have to be considerate to others or even their own health simply because that’s how they’ve always done it.

It is a task for all young people in Slovakia to challenge those views and demand that the law is taken seriously. As of now, however, I don’t have much hope for that happening. The threat of financial fine is a joke to most, which only serves to show how Slovakia mostly fails at executing the European law.

About the author

My name is Barbara Čolláková and I am a fourth-year medical student at the Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Kosice. I’m a member of my local national medical students’ organization SloMSA in Kosice and I have been actively engaged in our public health division. As a multilingual student, I have both worked and studied internationally and I hope to continue my career in the field of Cardiology. I’m very passionate about global health issues, politics and human rights.

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