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Switzerland’s referendum to answer whether to ban smoking at public facilities

September 23, 2012, 9:58 UTC+3

The referendum’s initiators suggest tightening the law to protect people from consequences of passive smoking

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LUCERNE, September 23 (Itar-Tass) — Citizens of Switzerland will make a decision during the referendum on Sunday whether smoking at public facilities would be banned.

Initiators of the referendum were Switzerland’s lung association supported by left-wing parties and about 50 health protecting and consumer rights’ organisations, as well as trade unions.

They suggest tightening the 2010 law banning smoking at open public places. The authors of the initiative claim the offered wording is not binding and leaves much freedom for local authorities. For example, in Switzerland’s only eight of 26 cantons, including Geneva, smoking indoors of any facilities is prohibited.

In other cantons, smoking is allowed in bars, cafes and restaurants if their area is under 80 square metres or in bigger facilities, which are divided into smoking and non-smoking areas.

The referendum’s initiators suggest tightening the law to protect people from consequences of passive smoking, which according to the World Health Organisation kills about 600,000 people every year. For example, a bartender or a waiter working in a smoking area inhales during eight hours of work as much hazardous substances as 15-38 cigarettes contain. Switzerland’s lung association stresses, the ban would not affect smoking at home or in the open air.

The opposition to the law features practically all political parties, the country’s government, both houses of the parliament and the federation of enterprises. The opponents say the new measure interferes with private life and would cause losses of restaurants, bars and hotels.

A public survey conducted on the eve of the referendum demonstrated that 52 pecent of the respondents are against changes to the country’s constitution. The initiative is supported by 42 percent.

Switzerland is a world leader in organisation of referendums. Since 1848, the country had over 500 national plebiscites. The regulations require collection of over 100,000 signatures for appointment of a referendum.

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