Smoking ban blazes a trail in Ticino
Ticino in the southern Italian-speaking part of Switzerland has become the first canton to ban smoking in public places.
Voters decided in a referendum on Sunday by an overwhelming majority (79.1 per cent) to follow the lead of neighbouring Italy by modifying current legislation on the issue.
The law bans smoking in all restaurants, bars, discos and night clubs.
Owners of such establishments have the possibility to make separate areas for smoking but these have to be well ventilated. There is a grace period of one year for alteration work to be carried out.
The vote was seen as a formality after recent surveys had found that more than 80 per cent of those polled supported the smoking ban.
The referendum had been forced by the Lega Ticinesi party. Its president, Giuliano Bignasca, had claimed that such a ban placed too many limits on public freedom.
"We do not oppose the smoking ban as such but more because individual freedom is compromised," Bignasca said.
Bignasca had also threatened to launch a people's initiative that aimed to do away with the law on public places altogether.
Strict measures against passive smoking have been in force in Italy since the beginning of last year.
Health authorities there say that after 12 months 500,000 people have given up smoking, cigarette sales have fallen by 5.7 per cent and almost ten per cent of the population are going to restaurants more frequently than in the past.
There have been increasing signs in Switzerland that the lax restrictions of the past are coming to an end.
People in Geneva are likely to vote on an initiative that aims to ban smoking in enclosed public buildings such as bars and restaurants as well as administrative, cultural and hospital buildings.
Other cantons where moves are being made to prevent passive smoking are Fribourg, Neuchâtel, Jura, Zurich, Aargau, St Gallen and Solothurn.
Vaud was the first canton to introduce a ban on selling tobacco to those under 18, but others have decided to follow suit or are in the process of doing so, including the two half cantons of Basel, Bern, Graubünden, Lucerne, Solothurn, Zug, Thurgau and Zurich.
The Swiss Federal Railways introduced a ban on smoking in its trains on December 12 last year.
swissinfo with agencies
There were 90,384 people (79.1%) who voted in favour of the smoking ban and 39,945 (20.9%) who were against it.
The banning of smoking in public places and protection from smoke have been topics of discussion in Switzerland for years.
A parliamentary initiative aiming for better protection of passive smokers is due to be discussed in the near future.
Smoking was banned in trains of the Swiss Federal Railways on December 12 last year.
Vaud was the first canton to have banned the sale of tobacco to those under 18 years of age.
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