Monday, March 26, 2007

Switzerland: City of Lights...You can swim in the lake, drink from the fountains, but can you breathe the air?

As the announcement is made in long-winded German, followed by slightly smoother sounding French, that we are arriving in Zurich, impatient passengers grab their belongings and make a beeline for the door as if there is a contest to see who gets there first. As the train makes its final bends and jerks while it decides on its final track, people grab hold of seats and sometimes an unfortunate person’s shoulders to keep their balance while they make for the door.

While I can understand that there may be a few people that really need to get somewhere fast, what I can’t understand is that usually the passengers that are dying to get off are the very same people that stroll along the moment they disembark. So while I can’t really see what the big rush is, as soon as I walk on the platform, I can smell it.

About a third of the Swiss population, or an estimated 2 million people smoke. And the average Swiss smoker smokes (according to ASH) more than 20 cigarettes a day. If you count 8 hours of sleeping in there, each smoker smokes more than one cigarette an hour. Since the Swiss train system banned smoking on trains in December 2005, a half-hour train ride is really pushing the limits of almost any addict.

Unfortunately for the non-smoker, while the trains may be smoke free, not only do smokers light up the second they disembark, making train platforms a popular place for non-smokers to practice the art of breath-holding, smokers also tend to wait until the very last second to board the train before it leaves, throwing their cigarette butts under the tracks, and taking a seat next to someone like me, who then spends the trip burying their nose in their scarf.

A pack of cigarettes costs over 6 CHF and has one of the largest warning labels I have ever seen. This does not seem to deter anyone. And since warning labels seem to be a rare thing in Switzerland, one would think that people would at least take note.

For example, my Swiss-made hairdryer has no big tag hanging off of it warning me of death by electric shock. The free plastic bags at the grocery stores have no warning that they could possibly cause suffocation. And there’s no signs at the local pool (which, by the way, has 10 meter platforms) that you should swim at your own risk because there’s no lifeguard on duty.

No, in Switzerland, these things seem to be common sense and there’s also no culture of suing someone for something as ridiculous as coffee being served hot. But the cigarette packages clearly say, in much bigger font than used in the U.S., that “smoking kills.” But as I shut my office door and open the window to diffuse the smoke that has billowed into my room while I was out for lunch, I think there must be a better way to stop Swiss smoking. Especially since it’s about 30 degrees outside and I’m forced between shivering or breathing in carcinogens.

Perhaps in Switzerland the warning about smoking shouldn’t be about death, it should be about the environment. This seems to be something the Swiss are very concerned about. They run electric trains, trams, and buses. They have reusable ant traps. They have separate recycling collections for everything from plastic to oils to old machinery. They personally go through regular garbage for signs of say, a piece of aluminum that could have been recycled but wasn’t, and fine the criminal. But then, they go and smoke 40 million cigarettes a day, blowing smoke into the air and throwing cigarettes onto the pavement.

Ok, so never mind the pavement, as the street sweeper is on constant duty. But what about the air? Second-hand cigarette smoke contains many toxic chemical compounds including carbon monoxide, ammonia, formaldehyde, benzene and arsenic. Many of these are known carcinogens and respiratory irritants. So drive your Smart cars and ride your electric trains all you want, but if you take the electric bus to work, and then light up the minute you get off, you’re as guilty as anyone else for pollution. A recent study by Tobacco Control found that the air pollution emitted by cigarettes is 10 times greater than diesel car exhaust.

So maybe if the warning labels on cigarettes sold in Switzerland said, “Smoking kills the environment,” instead of “Smoking kills you,” there would be more headway in reducing the smoking habits of the Swiss. Raising prices does no good, since the Swiss are rich. And apparently dying is also no big deal.


sunflower said...

Bộ phim có lẽ cũng không có gì để gọi là quá đặc biệt nhưng nó là hình ảnh thực với những suy nghĩ mang đậm chất "một tuổi thơ dữ dội", có lẽ đấy là lý do bộ phim "hot" thế.
trung tâm kế toán tại bắc giang
trung tâm kế toán tại ninh bình
trung tâm kế toán tại lĩnh nam
học kế toán tại thanh trì
Và rồi như gặp lại mình trong một số hình ảnh trong phim.... Xem phim có cười có khóc...
và chắc mình chưa đọc hết truyện nên không thất vọng như nhiều người khác...

Mary said...

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