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Anti-smoking measures gather pace

One in three people smokes in Switzerland Keystone

Switzerland has stepped up efforts to stub out smoking as it marks the World Health Organization’s (WHO) "World No Tobacco Day" on Tuesday.

A competition has been launched to encourage smokers – particularly parents – to kick the habit, and a nationwide campaign is targeting passive smoking.

The contest, an annual event to coincide with No Tobacco Day, is being run by the Swiss Association for Smoking Prevention.

Smokers are encouraged to give up smoking for a month – from June 6 to July 5. If successful they could win a SFr5,000 ($4,050) prize, with ten runners-up prizes of SFr500.

“This year we are focusing on two themes. One is how parents can set a good example to their children not to smoke; the other, which is from the WHO, is how health professionals can help against tobacco,” the association’s director, Verena El Fehri, told swissinfo.

Citing a study carried out in the United States, the association says that parents who quit smoking before their children reach the age of eight or nine can help prevent their sons and daughters from picking up the habit later on.

It found that the risk of a 17- or 18-year-old starting smoking fell by 39 per cent if both parents gave up early.

The association is also emphasising how healthcare professionals can help people stop smoking. According to the WHO, support from health professionals is one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing smoking.

Workplace campaign

Last week also saw the launch in Switzerland of a Federal Health Office campaign to clamp down on passive smoking in the workplace.

It said that almost half the working population was exposed to smoke at the office, but that the effects of passive smoking – lung cancer, heart problems and asthma – were often underestimated.

The government is hoping the campaign will help motivate people to take action against workplace smoking.

Both the competition and the passive-smoking initiative form part of a four-year national anti-smoking campaign, “Smoking harms”, which was launched by the Federal Health Office, the Swiss Association for Smoking Prevention, the Swiss Cancer League and the Swiss Lung League in 2001.

But El Fehri says smoking remains a cause for concern in Switzerland, despite the increased measures taken against it.

“One-third of the adult population still smokes and if you compare that with California, where you have 15 per cent who are smokers, that’s very high,” she told swissinfo.

Smokers’ paradise?

Official statistics attribute 8,300 premature deaths to tobacco in Switzerland each year.

The country used to be known as a smokers’ paradise with few public places banning smoking and the price of cigarettes remaining low.

But there are signs that the climate may be changing. Cigarette packets now carry more prominent health warnings and last week the cantonal hospitals in Geneva and Lausanne became the latest public places to announce a ban on smoking.

The Italian-speaking canton of Ticino looks set to become the first canton to impose restrictions on smoking in restaurants and hotels.

But experts fear that a nationwide ban is still a long way off, due to Switzerland’s federal structure and the fact that there is strong opposition from the catering, tobacco and advertising industries.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

World No Tobacco day was launched in 1987 and takes place on May 31.
Its aim is to draw global attention to the dangers associated with tobacco.
In May 2003 the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was adopted by 192 countries. But Switzerland has yet to ratify it.

The “Stop smoking and win SFr5,000” competition applies to smokers who give up from June 6 – July 5. They must sign up by June 3.

The first part of the Federal Health Office campaign runs until the end of June and is made up of posters and television adverts. It is supported by 29 organisations.

The second part will take place in September and October. A hotline for those wanting to give up smoking has also been set up.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR