Monday, May 03, 2010

Smoke-free Switzerland?


People have said that I live in one of the most backwards cantons in Switzerland. People from Zurich especially like to point this out.

Now I've defended Canton Aargau before, but this time, I have to agree with my Zurich colleagues. At least when it comes to the new smoking law, Little Living In The Past Canton Aargau still can't admit what scientists have proven for years: smoking kills.

Even though Switzerland has passed a smoking ban, which began on May 1, like most things Swiss, the lawmakers in Bern let the cantons decide the actual rules--even when it comes to things like public health. And of course, I live in a canton that has the most liberal rules. This means that smoking is allowed in restaurants under 80 qm2--in other words, smoking is still allowed in almost all the of restaurants in my little town.

I guess I'm not going out after all.

Despite appearances otherwise, nothing in many parts of Switzerland has changed. Somehow, I'm not surprised. Whether it's women fighting for equal rights in a Swiss parade for over 20 years, or protecting workers from second-hand smoke when the facts prove it kills, change in Switzerland seems excruciating in its slowness.

According to Swissinfo, 21% of the population here is exposed to second-hand smoke for at least an hour each day. And what I still fail to understand are the numbers: Two-thirds of Swiss people don't smoke. So why are we catering to the minority, especially since we live in an über-democracy? I don't understand why restaurant owners are so worried about the smoking ban. If they only knew how many times I wanted to go out but didn't because I didn't want to come home and have to take a shower, maybe they'd realize just how many customers they will never see because of their "liberal" take on smoke.

I would also generalize that many non-smokers are probably better educated and have more money to spend in restaurants (especially since these people are saving hundreds each year by not buying cigarettes). But logic does not always seem to matter when it comes to laws in Switzerland.

To see if you live in a backwards part of Switzerland, check the smoking chart above, which I scanned from Blick am Abend. If you find yourself in the gray areas, yeah, you live in one of the most backwards places in Switzerland. So to see any real change when it comes to smoking, you'll probably have to keep holding your breath.

What do you think of the new smoking laws?

11 comments:

Jen said...

I know it was smoking you were asking about, but I am intrigued by what a qm2 is? I understand cm2 and m2 and I guess it must be possible to have dm2 since I have seen bottles with dl on them in Europe, but I can't work out what measurement qm2 is?

Chantal said...

Jen, it means 80 square meters.

Jen said...

Ah ok, I have never seen that! Thanks Chantal.

M'dame Jo said...

Notice the separation between the Romandie and the Alemanic part of Switzerland. It looks just like a map on a voting Sunday.

That's all I have to say.

Chantal said...

Hi M'dame Jo,

I thought of you when I saw this map. The French-speaking part is way ahead of the German-speaking region...in more ways than one. It might as well be two different countries...

Sarah said...

I'm sorry to hear that you're still having to put up with smoking in restaurants! I think smoking bans are brilliant--the ban passed in Washington DC while I was living there, then in France when I lived in Burgunday, and now in Canton de Vaud. I'm so grateful each time! Hopefully you aren't too far from the boarder and could occasionally pick a restaurant in a different Canton...

Chantal said...

I definitely go out to eat at non-smoking places, even if they are further away. My husband and I went to Wagamama in Zurich on Sunday. I've been going there for awhile as they've always been smoke-free.

Bill Harby said...

When they prohibited smoking in my former home state of Hawai'i, my friends and I found that it was such a joy to go home after an evening hanging out in a club and not have our hair and clothes stink of stale cigarette smoke. Now that's true here in Neuchatel too. In 2008, living in Geneva, I simply couldn't go into a small bar without feeling I was suffocating. Now, it's great. And if they can prohibit smoking in Paris, surely even Aargau can! Good luck Chantal.

Chantal said...

Thanks, Bill. I mean, even Portugal was smoke free. Come on, Switzerland...

Manish Sisodia said...

Hi!
I am Manish from India. I came to this page while surfing about Swiss Democracy.
Can I request friends here to let me know more about how smoking was banned... was is a complete democratic decision by people in this country or ......I am interested in knowing the procedure, peoples involvement and the ultimate results....
(Our group is working on similar model of democracy in India)
I'll be grateful if you could help us in learning.

sarah saad said...




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