01.05.2015 Five years of effective legal protection against passive smoking

Tobacco control. Five years ago, on 1 May 2010, the Federal Act on Protection against Passive Smoking came into force. It had been preceded by years of debate, some of it highly controversial. Today people take a calmer view. Smoking bans cause little discussion nowadays, and smoke-free pubs and restaurants have become the norm. What's more, the law is extremely effective.

Pictures Five years of effective legal protection against passive smoking


The Federal Act on Protection against Passive Smoking states that all enclosed rooms must be smoke-free if they are accessible to the public or if several people work in them. Smoking is still permitted in separate smoking rooms, in the open air and in private homes. The enactment of this law was preceded by much public discussion. Former FOPH Director Thomas Zeltner, in particular, was in the firing line of organisations opposed to FOPH campaigns focusing on tobacco and alcohol. An organisation calling itself IG Freiheit [Association for Freedom] bestowed on Mr Zeltner the "honour" of the "Rusty Paragraph". A trade association called him the "health Taliban", prompting the health organisation Public Health Switzerland to launch a signature campaign in his support. Things took on a martial aspect in 2004, with headlines such as "War against smokers" (19 July 2004), while the commuter newspaper "20 Min" predicted that a ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants would cost Swiss restaurant owners a billion francs in lost revenue (29 November 2006).  

Only positive effects

As it turned out, though, restaurateurs did not suffer any major financial losses. Not one of more than 100 studies was able to show that the introduction of a total ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and hotels had had a major negative impact on either revenue or jobs.  Conversely, there is plenty of evidence of the positive effects of the smoking ban. For example, the proportion of the Swiss population that is exposed to passive smoking for at least one hour a day fell from 35% in 2002 to 6% in 2013. A study carried out by the cantonal hospital in Graubünden documented a 21% reduction in hospital admissions due to heart attacks following the ban on smoking. In Lucerne, the control canton where smoking had yet to be regulated during the above period, there was no change in the number of cases. Ticino also reported a 21% drop in the number of hospital admissions due to heart attacks, and in Geneva a significant 19% reduction in hospitalisations due to chronic bronchial and lung diseases or pneumonia was demonstrated. This shows that like other structural measures, the Act on Protection against Passive Smoking is not only effective, but also costs next to nothing.     

Cantons in the vanguard

The cantons, with their cantonal regulations, played an important role in spearheading the implementation of the Federal Act on Protection against Passive Smoking. Ticino was the first canton to introduce a smoking ban in 2007, followed by Graubünden in 2008. In fact a smoking ban with more stringent provisions than the federal law was already in place in many cantons before the national legislation came into effect in May 2010. The Act deliberately specifies only minimal requirements for protection against passive smoking and makes provision for the tobacco control measures in the cantons to contain further-reaching regulations.


Patrick Vuillème, Tobacco Section,  

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