Lighting up ... or butting out? Winds of change could soon make it harder to light up in Switzerland, yet the Alpine nation still lags behind some of its European counterparts with regard to its non-smoking laws.

AuteurHancock, Julia


Switzerland's streets are spotless and its cars are usually perfectly parked within the designated lines. But when it comes to smoking, Switzerland has, so far, held on tighter to its freedom to indulge in what some would call an untidy habit, versus many of its neighbours.

In October, the Swiss parliament approved what many have defined as merely compromise legislation to prohibit smoking in most indoor venues, rather than the sweeping ban that exists in many neighbouring countries. That legislation, however, due to the usual legal process, is not expected to be enacted before 2010.

On the table

The new Swiss legislation, were it to come into force as proposed, would outlaw smoking in public areas including offices, schools, hospitals, shopping malls and cinemas. Smoking would still, however, be allowed in separate designated and well-ventilated areas in restaurants.

Furthermore, the government also excluded restaurants and bars of less than 80 square metres from the ban, as long as they are well ventilated, clearly marked as smoking establishments and have received local permission from the appropriate cantonal authority.

"The government passed on the opportunity to protect the Swiss population against passive smoking with a uniform and effective federal solution. The regulatory exceptions in the federal law prevent a real protection of workers in catering and introduce competitive distortions and more bureaucracy," Cornelis Kooijman, head of the tobacco prevention programme at the Swiss Lung Association, told Swiss News.

Playing by its own rules

The legislation passed was a far cry from Ireland's bold and groundbreaking move in 2004 to ban smoking in all public places. Many other European countries, including Norway and Italy, have since followed suit.

"Our goal was to get a law close to Ireland's but pressure from the hospitality sector was too powerful," Thomas Beutler from the Swiss Association for the Prevention of Smoking told Swiss News, explaining the catering industry is afraid of losing too many clients if smoking is banned entirely.

The association representing Switzerland's hospitality industry, GastroSuisse, instead called the result a "proper compromise" to a difficult situation.

"The parliament ... passed legislation after long and difficult discussions which regularly included the participation of GastroSuisse. After much debate a national compromise was found," Brigitte MeierSchmid, spokeswoman for...

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