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Ticino to impose public-smoking ban

Ticino has followed neighbouring Italy in introducing a smoking ban in public places


Italian-speaking Ticino is set to become the first canton in Switzerland to ban smoking in public places.

After much debate, the cantonal parliament decided on Wednesday to give the initiative the green light. The move could come into force by late next year.

A large majority in the cantonal parliament voted in favour of a blanket ban for public places, rejecting a proposal to exempt nightclubs, discos and piano bars.

Under the new rules - an amendment to the public-places law - only establishments with separate areas for smoking and which are well ventilated will be able to accept smokers.

However, the rightwing Swiss People's Party and the Lega Ticinesi have already announced their intention to force a referendum on the issue.

Guiliano Bignasca, the Lega's president, said that such bans placed too many limits on public freedom.

For her part, Patrizia Pesenti, health minister for Ticino, said that outlawing smoking in public places would protect non-smokers and catering personnel. The public-places law as it stood was not sufficient, she added.

The change in legislation follows public pressure on the authorities to do more to combat passive smoking. Hoteliers have also given their support.

Strict measures against passive smoking have been in place in neighbouring Italy since the beginning of the year.

Signs of change

In Switzerland, which has long had lax restrictions on smoking, there are signs of a nationwide change in attitudes.

Voters in Geneva are set to become the first in the country to decide whether to outlaw smoking in public places. It is already banned in the city's municipal buildings.

Similar discussions are underway in several other cantons, including Graubünden and Neuchâtel.

On a federal level, a motion on banning smoking in public places is waiting for the green light from the Senate's committee for social security and health before it can go before the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Swiss Federal Railways is also due to stop smokers from lighting up on trains when the new timetable comes into force in December.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The ban on smoking in public places in Ticino was accepted by a large majority in the cantonal parliament.
According to a Zurich University study, 54% of adolescents and 72% of those aged 20-24 have been exposed to passive smoking, for example in discos.
In Switzerland there are 1.75 million smokers aged 15-74, which equals 33% of the population.
More than 4,000 toxic substances are found in cigarette smoke.

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In brief

In October 2004 the Ticino government presented its project for the banning of smoking in public places in the canton.

Now that it has been approved by the parliament, establishments have one year to adapt to the new law.

The debate caused huge media interest.

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