June 10, 2010 - According to a study commissioned by the Federal Health Office, 27 percent of the Swiss population aged 14-65 were smokers in 2009, the same percentage as in 2008, and a slight drop from the 33 percent in 2001. Ruth Hagen, spokeswoman for Addiction Info Switzerland: “The tendency to smoke is going down, so we are very glad about this because smoking is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases and premature death.”
However, the number of 20 to 24-year-olds who smoke on a daily basis is on the rise; it went up three per cent from 2008 to 2009. In that age group, 28 percent smoke daily, with another 11 per cent lighting up regularly – meaning that 39 per cent of Swiss people in their early 20s smoke.
On the other hand, the youngest people surveyed seem less and less tempted by tobacco. In 2001, 31 percent of 14-19-year-olds said they smoked; by 2009 the figure had gone down to 22 percent.
“We believe that the discussion of the dangers of [passive] smoking certainly had an influence on the smoking prevalence these past few years,” said Hagen.
The survey also examined the habits of young people aged 16-19; in particular, those working as apprentices or attending vocational school compared with those attending secondary school. It found the number of smokers has gone down in both cases.
Men account for the majority of smokers - 31 percent of men have the habit - compared with 23 percent of women. That’s consistent with previous years. Whether male or female, many smokers would like to stop.
In 2009, half (51 per cent) of the smokers surveyed in Switzerland said that they wanted to quit – and 26 per cent said they planned to do so within the next six months.
A nationwide law aimed at stamping out passive smoking in public spaces in Switzerland came into force on Saturday, May 1, 2010. The legislation gives cantons (Switzerland consists of 26 cantons; each is member state of the federal state of Switzerland), which have differing approaches to the issue, minimum standards to apply. But some say that it does not go far enough.
Smoking is now forbidden in Swiss public spaces such as restaurants, bars, schools and theatres. However, catering establishments have the option of creating separate ventilated smoking rooms, and locales smaller than 80 square metres may become designated smokers’ dens.
“It is too early to measure possible consequences on tobacco sales,” François Thoenen, spokesman for Philip Morris. “Generally, in countries having implemented smoking restrictions in indoor places accessible to the public, we experienced a decline of consumption of tobacco products, and afterwards, a stabilisation on a level slightly lower than before such restrictions.” Yet as Thoenen pointed out, there are other measures that can play a role – such as smoking cessation campaigns.
Mathieu Janin, spokesman for British American Tobacco Switzerland, has also noticed a reduction in the number of smokers. “Smoking is declining slightly every year. We lose an average of about 1.5 per cent each year, and this year we will lose a little bit more, I think, because of the new restrictions,” Janin told swissinfo.ch.
“Smoking also depends on the weather. If the weather is nice, people will smoke much more,” said Janin.
That’s if they start at all. The number of people in Switzerland who have never smoked has steadily risen since 2001. For 2009, that figure was a decade-high of 54 per cent.
Reference: Swiss start to cut back smoking habit, Susan Vogel-Misicka, swissinfo.ch, 6/7/2010.
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