Photo: CG

Czech Republic Reports Over 500 Annual Fatalities Due to Alcohol Intoxication

Hundreds of people die each year in the Czech Republic of alcohol intoxication. In 2022, the figure was 504, national drug coordinator Jindrich Voboril told reporters after a meeting of the Government Council for Addiction Policy Coordination this week.

The Czech Republic is still among the highest countries in the world in terms of alcohol consumption.

Voboril also said he was considering quitting his post because of the failure to sufficiently implement plans to combat addictions in strategic documents approved by the government.

Voboril compared the number of deaths caused by alcohol poisoning to the dozens of overdoses from illegal drugs and the consequences of using psychoactive HHC substances, which he said are not fatal base on his past experience.

“We have had a debate here in recent weeks about HHC,” he said, recalling cases of children who ended up in hospitals after consuming sweets with the cannabinoid substance, whose sale will be banned in the Czech Republic in a few days.

Justifying the ban, the health ministry cited figures from a drug centre that about 170 people had been intoxicated by the substances since June 2022. “Unlike alcohol, HHC does not have fatal overdoses,” said Voboril.

According to the head of the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addictions, Pavla Chominova, it seems that these psychoactive substances do not have such high health risks to cause major health impacts.

According to experts, the consumption of alcoholic beverages and tolerance to their consumption has long been high in the Czech Republic. “Data from the past three years show a slight decline in consumption among men. However, among women, daily consumption has increased slightly again after the decline observed during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chominova, whose centre yesterday submitted the Alcohol in the Czech Republic 2023 and the Tobacco and Nicotine Products 2023 reports to the Council for approval.

The report says the number of smokers in the Czech population has been declining over the past three years. 16% of adults smoke daily, more often men and people aged 45 to 64. “Among young adults, the decline in smoking of conventional cigarettes has been accompanied by an increase in the use of alternative tobacco and nicotine products,” Chominova warned. In the 2022 study, children aged 11 to 15 were significantly more likely to say they smoked electronic cigarettes than conventional ones.

“Although the rate of taxation on addictive products is increasing, excise tax collections do not reach the estimated social costs,” said Voboril.

In the case of alcohol, experts estimate the social costs related to its consumption at CZK 50-57 billion, while related taxes bring in CZK 14 billion. For smoking, the social costs are estimated at CZK 170 billion and the taxes at CZK 60 billion.

According to Voboril, the government approved strategic documents it wanted to follow in the fight against addiction, but failed to implement them. That is why he is considering leaving his office. He added that he wanted to complete legislation to regulate cannabis and continues to be concerned about the black market in tobacco and the high proportion of domestic violence cases where alcohol played a role.

Voboril was national drug coordinator from 2010 to 2018, and returned to the post again in February 2022. When he first left, media speculated about his disputes with then prime minister Andrej Babis (ANO).

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