Cannabis consumption in Switzerland has probably peaked after the number of smokers almost doubled, says a study released on Wednesday.
Experts are recommending renewed prevention efforts, especially among the less educated and those on low incomes.
“The consumption of cannabis has increased dramatically over the past few years in Switzerland. But it has most likely peaked,” said the Swiss National Science Foundation in a statement.
There are an estimated 250,000 people who regularly smoke cannabis – nearly twice as many as a decade ago.
More than half of the 20 to 24-year-olds interviewed in the study said they had tried cannabis at least once.
The survey, conducted by the Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Addiction, is based on figures collected by the Federal Statistics Office between 1997 and 2002.
Sandra Kuntsche, the author of the study, said most new smokers came from the ranks of those on low incomes and with modest educational qualifications.
The findings mirror a pattern seen elsewhere in society where new trends are first taken up by high-income males. Later on, these trends spread to men with lower incomes, before being picked up by women.
Kuntsche believes that the number of dope smokers will not increase significantly in Switzerland. And she recommends focusing prevention efforts on low-income earners.
Contacted by swissinfo, the authors of the study gave no reasons why dope consumption has become widespread in Switzerland.
But experts in Austria believe the use of cannabis could be related to youth culture and boredom among young people.
They also believe that there is a link between dope smoking and mental illnesses but only for people with a predisposition towards such illnesses.
In June, the Swiss parliament threw out a proposal that sought to decriminalise cannabis.
Since then a group has made a new attempt aimed at legalising the consumption, production and sale of cannabis products in Switzerland.
The supporters have started collecting the necessary signatures to force a nationwide vote on the issue.
The study also found that up to two million people in Switzerland – population 7.37 million – smoke tobacco products.
The habit is still particularly widespread among Swiss women without a university degree, according to the study.
The authors expect the number of women who die from smoking-related illnesses to increase in the near future.
Up to 10,000 people die in Switzerland every year as a result of tobacco-related illnesses.
The authors note that smoking began losing its appeal among high earners three decades ago and has since been taken up by other social classes.
There are an estimated 250,000 regular cannabis consumers in Switzerland.
Some 2 million people smoke tobacco – cigarettes, pipes and cigars.
Up to 10,000 people die in Switzerland every year from the effects of smoking.
The number of cannabis smokers in Switzerland has doubled over the past decade.
Dope smoking has become popular among the less well educated and people on low incomes.
More than half of 20- to 24-year-olds have tried cannabis, according to the study, which is based on figures from 1997-2002.