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SMOKING BAN

Zurich bars flout city’s smoking ban

The application of Zurich's smoking ban has weakened progressively since its implementation exactly two years ago, according to media reports.

 

Many bars and restaurants have relaxed the rules on smoking indoors, online new site 20 Minuten reported.

“Officially, we are of course a non-smoking bar – unofficially we apply the smoking ban only until midnight,” a bar worker from Zurich told the website.

To avoid problems if the police call around for a spot check, the bar never puts out ashtrays. Cigarette butts on the floor do not prove that the bar tolerates the practice, the worker said.

An employee of another bar told the website that they ask smokers simply not to smoke at the windows or where they can be seen.

“It is worrying that the smoking ban is not enforced consistently,” the president of the Lung Association Zurich, Alexander Turk, told 20 Minuten.

“It is extremely important that the legislation is adhered to – otherwise it degenerates into a farce,” he said.

Last year Switzerland saw restaurant and bar revenues fall by approximately 2 billion francs ($2.2 billion). The losses were partially blamed on the introduction of the smoking ban, news website Basler Zeitung reported.

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RESTAURANTS

REACTION: What do the Swiss think about the extended shutdown?

While some in Switzerland praised the government’s decision not to re-open restaurants on March 22nd, others expressed disappointment at extended closures.

REACTION: What do the Swiss think about the extended shutdown?
Restaurantds will remain shut for the time being. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Many in Switzerland were hoping restaurants would re-open on Monday, but the government decided to extend the closure until at least April 14th

“We must unfortunately continue to be patient”, Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Friday, adding that “we are simply trying to ensure we do not lose control”.

He pointed out that most neighbouring European countries were adding restrictions, not lifting them, “which is something we are trying to avoid.”

READ MORE: Switzerland to extend measures to fight Covid-19 ‘third wave’

The decision strongest sparked criticism from business associations.

“The disappointment of the hotel and restaurant industry is immense”, the sector’s umbrella group, Gastrosuisse, said in a statement.

“We hope that the Federal Council will finally adopt a reasonable approach to the pandemic. Otherwise, the restaurants probably won’t open at all”, said the group’s president, Casimir Platzer. 

That’s because “one in five establishments has already had to close its doors. And an additional 20 percent in the hotel and restaurant industry are about to do so”, he added. 

The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Health also disagrees with the government’s reluctance to fully re-open the economy.

“We regret that the Federal Council is easing much more cautiously than requested by many cantons,” the organisation said.

It particularly criticises the decision not to lift the home work obligation, or at least “the transition from the obligation to work at home to a recommendation to work at home”.

The association of business groups, Economiesuisse, partly understands the government’s decision, but also “regrets the maintenance of the obligation to work from home and the failure to open restaurant terraces”.

“Switzerland is paying the price for the delay in implementing a coherent screening strategy and in acquiring vaccines,” the group said.

Most political parties object to the decision as well.

For the Swiss People’s Party, “it is a slap in the face of the population, traders and businesses”.

Die Mitte / Le Centre Party “regrets that the Federal Council assesses the epidemiological situation, despite the change in strategy towards more screening and vaccination”.

As for the Liberal Party, “unfortunately, it appears that the Federal Council is not prepared to give real prospects to the population and to businesses”, it said in a press release. 

However, Liberal Greens praised the decision, saying “the Federal Council is showing firmness and responsibility”.

The Travail.Suisse trade union also considers the Federal Council’s decision “understandable, given the figures which have been on the rise in recent days. It is about remaining cautious”.

One government decision that is supported across the board is that 10 people are now allowed to gather together in private, up from five previously.

“It’s at least a little glimmer of hope as Easter approaches”, said Gerhard Pfister,  president of Die Mitte/ Le Centre Party.

READ MORE: Covid-19: What’s the outlook for Easter weekend in Switzerland?

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