The number of Swiss youngsters who smoke is on the rise, according to the Swiss Institute for the prevention of alcoholism and drug addiction. To address the issue, hundreds of health experts, teachers and politicians gathered in Lucerne.
The "Smoking out" conference was aimed at proposing measures to dissuade teenagers from taking up the habit. "Lucerne was a market for ideas and projects," Ueli Locher, deputy director of the federal health office said.
"At the national level, we are trying to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy which includes not only projects and programmes that can be realised in schools but also legal changes that need to occur. Part of these overall strategies include restrictions on advertising and an increase in the price of cigarettes."
The Swiss Institute quotes statistics that show seven per cent of adolescents between the ages of 11 and 16 smoke regularly.
"The key problem is that amongst young people we have a significant increase over the last three to four years when it comes to smoking. Where the overall population is pretty stable, the youth are smoking more and more, they are smoking earlier and earlier and they smoke heavily around the ages of 16 and 17 years," Locher told swissinfo.
"Our plan is to take this programme to the government and ask them to give us a mandate to implement the programme."
There are various factors that influence young adults to start smoking. Locher explained that advertising plays a role, as well as increased stress levels and the example of adults who smoke themselves.
"There is, also, of course, the overall conscience of a society, whether it thinks that smoking is something that is acceptable and normal, or whether it thinks that not smoking is the norm. That has an influence on young people," Locher explained.
In his opinion, the behaviour of young smokers cannot be changed solely through legal means. However, he believes cooperation with the tobacco industry is not a conceivable option.
The industry did not attend the conference although it had been invited. It turned down the opportunity after a representative of a nicotine addiction prevention centre threatened to pull out of the conference if it participated.