This week Switzerland’s final vote, by 25 of its cantons, on smoking in public places was revealed. The overall consensus was that there should not be an overall ban on smoking in public places, meaning that people can still smoke in designated smoking areas inside public establishments. Currently each canton has its own legislation, but an overall vote for a ban would have made the same law mandatory across Switzerland.
Obviously those lobbying on behalf of the catering trade and tobacco companies were elated by the news, while those concerned about the health of workers and the general public were less so. Health experts spoke before the final vote saying that in some of the cantons, which include Geneva, there was a decline in the number of people being hospitalised for cardiovascular incidents and heart attacks.
For many of us this may seem like democracy at its best. The public is given a chance to say how much they want the government to be able to have a say in their daily lives, but does the public always know best? Well, I am sure they do, especially since we are all aware of the dangers of smoking, but isn’t this just delaying the inevitable smoking in public places anyways? Let’s face it, you’d be hard pressed to find a study that will one day eventually prove that, when it comes to smoking, the benefits completely outweigh the risks.
So with what people know about smoking, I think the decision speaks volumes about why smoking is still a worldwide health concern and it basically boils down to our economic dependency on smoking. The catering industry in Switzerland were delighted at the vote, as they weren’t required to make any further monetary outlays that could damage prospective investment and obviously tobacco companies were just as relieved. To me it indicates that maybe we should, alongside anti-smoking campaigns, designed to drive home the dangers surrounding smoking, governments should also see what can be done to lower our economic addiction to smoking and the consequential ‘high’ it gives in terms of revenue.
With smoking it seems to be either one evil or the other. More and more people stop smoking, which has an economic impact, however this reduces costs spent on dealing with smoking-related illnesses. Similarly, industry benefits if more people smoke, although the health system takes the punch.
Smoking is still so ingrained in our culture and our industry that we are fighting a losing battle on the service, when we should also be looking at the root causes as well. Australia have shown that they are willing to deal with the consequences of their harsh tobacco legislation and in the UK, there has been a significant drop in smoking-related illnesses, ultimately saving the National Health Service billions of pounds. Although I think it’s a little hypocritical to victimise smokers, when our governments and economy are just as addicted to smoking.