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Compromise smoking bill satisfies few

Smokers in most Swiss restaurants will soon face increased restrictions

(Keystone)

Parliament this week approved compromise legislation to prohibit smoking in most indoor venues but the law did little to placate anti-smoking activists.

The Swiss Lung League on Friday said it was disappointed with federal politicians, which it said had done little to protect non-smokers from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

"They have failed to provide coherent and effective protection against passive smoking at the national level," said the organisation's managing director, Corinne Zosso.

The association representing Switzerland's hospitality industry, Gastrosuisse, called the result a "proper compromise" to a difficult situation.

"The adopted solution provides protection against passive smoking and generally takes into account the legitimate concerns of the hospitality industry," it said in a news release.

The bill will outlaw smoking in public areas including schools, hospitals, shopping malls and cinemas, but politicians have excluded restaurants under 80 square metres from a blanket ban.

Bars that are well ventilated and clearly marked will remain open for tobacco aficionados.

Not satisfied

The new law has nevertheless left most people only partially satisfied.

Toni Bortoluzzi of the rightwing Swiss People's Party said his party had voted in favour of the law to prevent stricter nationwide regulation. But the right side of the political spectrum remains concerned over issues of state intervention on personal freedom and the impact a ban would have on business.

The majority of politicians from the centre-left Social Democratic Party and the Greens opposed the legislation, arguing it did not sufficiently protect young smokers. Social Democrat Jean-Charles Rielle said that the new laws would penalise restaurants over 80 square metres.

The trouble for anti-smoking advocates and restaurateurs and bar owners lies in the tangle of cantonal laws that regulate puffing to greater or lesser extents.

In Zurich and Basel City, smoking as of last weekend was allowed in designated unmanned rooms, and cantons Fribourg, Valais and Vaud could follow if voters there approve.

Italian-speaking canton Ticino was the first to introduce a ban last year and strict smoking prohibitions were recently instituted in Geneva, only to be struck down by the Supreme Court over questions of jurisdiction.

In the northern canton of Schaffhausen, one-third of seats in a venue must be reserved for non-smokers and in cantons including Graubünden, Solothurn and Uri, authorities are studying instituting separate smoking rooms.

"Diluted federal law"

The Lung League, which had successfully spearheaded the anti-smoking initiative in canton Zurich, said it had hoped that federal politicians would have crafted stronger legislation this week, and said it would study its options.

"Diluted federal law creates distortion and bureaucracy and will lead to problems in implementation," Zosso said.

"The board of the Lung League of Switzerland will now analyse the situation and then decide on whether to try and force a nationwide ballot to protect against passive smoking."

She added that the organisation would continue to press cantonal authorities, which could adopt stricter measures.

This is precisely the concern of Gastrosuisse.

"Despite the compromise found, the decision to protect against passive smoking is a massive encroachment on the entrepreneurial freedom of restaurateurs," the organisation said. "It is regrettable that under the new law, the cantons may adopt further laws."

It added that the 80 square metre limit that federal authorities had established excluded most restaurants.

swissinfo with agencies

Butt out

Under Bern's new regulations, smoking will be prohibited in:

Hospitals

Children's homes and retirement homes

Prisons

Museams, theatres and cinemas

Sport venues

Restaurants and hotels

Public transport vehicles and buildings

Shops and shopping centres

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Smoking in Europe

Ireland was the first country in Europe to ban smoking in all workplaces when it established laws in 2004. Norway and Italy followed.

Britain, Portugal and Sweden have all come up with similar plans, and Iceland is smoke-free.

In Belgium, smoking is allowed only in rooms in restaurants where no food is served.

In Spain, establishments over 100 square metres are allowed to create separate smoking rooms. The smaller venues that allow smoking are not open to people under the age of 18.

Portugal allows smoking in bars and restaurants, and on public transport journeys lasting over one hour.

end of infobox


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