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Swiss start kicking the habit

Giving up: Swiss smokers are starting to get the message swissinfo.ch

The number of Swiss smokers has fallen over the past four years thanks to a series of preventive measures, says the Federal Health Office.

This content was published on May 19, 2006 - 13:00

The percentage of smokers fell from 33 per cent to 30 per cent between 2001 and 2005, according to statistics presented on Friday. Young smokers in particular are starting to give up.

"This step in the right direction is basically down to political anti-smoking efforts and a change in people's mentality," said Federal Health Office director Thomas Zeltner.

According to the government, the number of young smokers - aged 14-19 - has fallen from 31 per cent to 25 per cent.

To celebrate and build on this success story, the authorities have launched two new anti-smoking campaigns to further reduce the number of smokers.

New campaigns

The "Bravo" campaign features Swiss ex-smokers from various backgrounds to drive home the message "smoke less for a longer life".

Swiss footballers Raphael Wicky and Tranquillo Barnetta will be supporting the campaign to be launched on television and in the Swiss press later this month.

A second national campaign was launched on Friday entitled "No smoking in the workplace" to encourage companies to invest in smoke-free working environments and to help fight passive smoking.

Approximately half of all workers are thought to be at risk from passive smoking in the workplace, said the Federal Health Office.

Ongoing pressure

The latest measures are part of a series of efforts over the past months to reduce tobacco consumption in Switzerland.

As of May 1, all cigarette packages in Switzerland have to carry large-size health warnings, and use of the labels "mild" and "light" for tobacco products has been outlawed.

These new regulations run alongside regional initiatives. In March the southern canton of Ticino became the first region to ban smoking in restaurants and bars.

Moves to outlaw smoking in restaurants are also underway in other Swiss regions.

Several countries in Europe - notably Italy, Ireland, Norway and Sweden - have imposed a nationwide ban in restaurants and bars.

The western canton of Vaud was the first in Switzerland to introduce a ban on selling tobacco to those under 18. Other cantons have decided to follow suit or are in the process of doing so, including Basel City and Basel Country, Bern, Graubünden, Lucerne, Solothurn, Zug, Thurgau and Zurich.

For its part, the Swiss Federal Railways last December introduced a total smoking ban on all trains.

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In brief

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.

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Key facts

There are around two million smokers in Switzerland
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.

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