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Public airs its anti-smoking views

Most Swiss want to see the back of smokers in restaurants and bars

(Keystone)

Four out of five Swiss are in favour of smoke-free workplaces and two-thirds would also welcome a smoking ban in restaurants and bars, according to a survey.

The number of respondents who want to be able to eat and drink in a clean environment was particularly high in French- and Italian-speaking parts of the country.

A tobacco-monitoring survey on behalf of the Federal Health Office revealed on Wednesday that two-thirds of smokers were against smoke-free restaurants and bars.

Equally unsurprising was the news that two-thirds of smokers opposed increasing the price of a packet of cigarettes by SFr0.90 ($0.72) – although a third seemed not to be bothered.

Sixty per cent of non-smokers backed a price hike, with 14- to 19-year-olds particularly in favour of such a rise.

The price already went up SFr0.30 on October 1, raking in more revenue for the state pension scheme, and the government hopes, convincing more people to give up their nicotine habit.

A packet of 20 cigarettes now costs at least SFr6 in Switzerland, with over half heading straight to the state coffers as tax income. Under Swiss law, this revenue is paid directly into the state pension scheme. In 2005, it was worth SFr2.1 billion, approximately six per cent of the scheme's income.

Verena El Fehri, director of the Swiss Tobacco Prevention Association, said on Wednesday she was delighted with the results and that the next step was to push for a change in the law regarding the workplace.

Doesn't ad up

Seventy per cent of the representative 2,500 people surveyed at the beginning of the year believed that tobacco advertising played down the dangers of smoking and tempted young people to start. Two-thirds thought tobacco advertising should be limited to points of sale.

Smokers said health warnings on cigarette packets – "Smoking kills" etc. – had little effect on making them consider smoking's increased level of risk.

Voters haven't always been in favour of restrictions on tobacco – in 1993 more than 70 per cent turned down proposals to ban tobacco and alcohol advertising – but the latest results back up other smoking surveys recently conducted in Switzerland.

In March, Ticino, in the southern Italian-speaking part of the country, became the first canton to ban smoking in public places. Voters decided in a referendum by an overwhelming majority (79.1 per cent) to follow the lead of neighbouring Italy by modifying current legislation on the issue.

The law bans smoking in all restaurants, bars, discos and nightclubs. Owners of such establishments have the possibility to make separate areas for smoking but these have to be well ventilated. There is a grace period of one year for alteration work to be carried out.

Other cantons where moves are being made to prevent passive smoking are Fribourg, Neuchâtel, Jura, Zurich, Aargau, St Gallen and Solothurn.

The results on Wednesday contradict claims by GastroSuisse, the hotel and restaurant federation, that customers do not support a total ban but are in favour of separate smoking and non-smoking zones.

GastroSuisse has previously called for a big increase in smoke-free seating but said that this should be left up to the individual establishment and not be enforced by law.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Since 1992, non-smokers have been protected from passive smoking in the workplace under Swiss law.

But voters haven't always been in favour of restrictions on tobacco. In 1993, more than 70 per cent turned down proposals to ban tobacco and alcohol advertising.

However, a number of cantons are drawing up legislation offering non-smokers more protection, while in others votes will probably take place.

The southern canton of Ticino showed the way in March, with voters massively approving a ban on smoking in public spaces.

The Swiss Federal Railways declared its trains smoke-free last December.

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Key facts

There are around two million smokers in Switzerland (which has a population of 7.4 million).
Switzerland has one of the highest rates of tobacco consumption in Europe. Regular smokers on average consume more than 20 cigarettes a day.
About 8,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses in Switzerland each year, according to the Federal Health Office.
A packet of cigarettes currently costs SFr6.30 ($5).

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