Anti-smoking campaign catches the eye
As of next Monday all cigarette packages in Switzerland will have to carry large-size health warnings.
The authorities also banned the use of the labels “light” or “mild” for tobacco products from May 1, marking the end of a transition period in place since November 2004.
Campaigners hope the new regulations – alongside a regional smoking ban in restaurants – will boost efforts across the country.
Apart from drastic warnings the tobacco products must also contain indications and recommendations including advice for people who want to kick the habit.
The Anti-Cancer League is operating a special help-line during weekdays in the country’s main languages, German, French and Italian.
The organisation says it is aware that the fight against tobacco addiction can’t be won by banning orders only. Therefore it has hired a number of experts offering practical advice to those seeking help to quit smoking.
On World No-Tobacco Day, May 31, a special competition will be launched in Switzerland to encourage regular smokers to stay away from cigarettes, cigars or pipes.
The organisers of the competition, including the Federal Health Office and the tobacco prevention association, say those taking part stand a realistic chance of coping without cigarettes for at least a year.
Their statement is based on the findings of a survey conducted among participants of a similar competition in 2003.
Restaurants and bars
The latest measures are part of a whole series of efforts over the past few months to reduce tobacco consumption in Switzerland.
In March canton Ticino became the first region of the country to outlaw smoking in restaurants and bars. In line with similar measures in neighbouring Italy voters overwhelmingly came out in favour of the ban to be in force by April 2007.
Experts hope the ban will have an impact comparable with Italy where about 500,000 smokers are said to have quit and cigarette sales dropped by 5.7 per cent in the wake of the introduction of a smoking ban at the beginning of 2005.
Moves to outlaw smoking in restaurants are also underway in other regions in Switzerland. The federal authorities have not taken any legal measures but a cabinet report points out the protection from harmful effects of passive smoking takes priority over the freedom to smoke.
The Swiss Federal Railways for their part last December banished smokers from their trains altogether.
It is widely believed that it is only a matter of time before Switzerland will follow other countries in Europe, – notably Italy, Ireland, Norway and Sweden – to impose a nationwide ban in restaurants and bars.
swissinfo, Etienne Strebel
Public health is primarily a matter for the country’s 26 cantons, but the federal authorities can take their own measures notably to combat the spread of highly contagious diseases.
The federal authorities also decide whether to allow certain foodstuffs, pharmaceutical and chemical products as well as drugs.
In March 2006 voters in canton Ticino approved a smoking ban in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The measure will come into force in April 2007.
There are around two million smokers in Switzerland (36% of men, and 26% of women).
Switzerland has one of the highest rates of tobacco consumption in Europe. Regular smokers on average consume more than 20 cigarettes per day.
About 8,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses in Switzerland each year, according to the Federal Health Office.
Despite several prevention campaigns the number of smokers remained stable at just over 30% between 1992 and 2002. The percentage of smokers even increased to 37% percent in the same periods among the people under the age of 25.
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