Geneva gets tough with smoking ban scofflaws

The canton of Geneva is cracking down on nightclubs and restaurants flouting a ban on smoking by increasing fines 60-fold and threatening to shut down uncooperative establishments.

Geneva gets tough with smoking ban scofflaws
Photo: AFP

The cantonal government this week approved raising the maximum financial penalty to 60,000 francs, up from the previous maximum of 1,000 francs.

 “We realize that certain establishments don’t care at all about the law banning smoking,” said Pierre-François Unger, Geneva health minister, in defending the new get-tough policy, the Tribune de Genève reported.

A handful of nightclubs, in particular, have openly violated the smoking ban with employees lighting up as well as customers.

The Java Club, a popular hangout for young people in the Hotel Kempinski, became the focus of controversy earlier this year over reports that it habitually allowed patrons to smoke.

The canton introduced a law in July 1, 2008 banning smoking in enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants.

The law followed an initiative supported by 80 percent of Geneva voters.

But some restaurant and nightclub operators have been reluctant to accept the regulations.

The changes approved by the government will not only boost the fines but will use the arsenal of measures available under the legislation covering restaurants and bars.

These include suspensions, closures and refusal to authorize permits for recalcitrant businesses.

“We are targetting mainly the managers of establishments open to the public who violate the law repeatedly, consciously and voluntarily,” Unger is quoted as saying.

He added that these managers “were happily rare”.

Unger said the new penalties are more dissuasive and should be more effective in tackling the issue.

Bar and restaurant owners have generally welcomed the tougher approach.

However, a pro-smoking group called the Dissidents de Genève denounced the regulations as “intolerable”.

Geneva’s legislation is designed to protect workers, residents and visitors from the health impacts of second-hand smoke.

It is one of the cantons with the strongest such laws, but nationally Switzerland still lags behind other European countries when it comes to smoking bans in public places.

Last year, two-thirds of Swiss voters rejected an initiative to tighten national regulations.

That left minimal federal requirements in place that allow for smoking in restaurants, nightclubs and “fumoirs”, or smoking rooms, unless otherwise specified by individual cantons.

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No smoking? Swiss canton cracks down on employee cigarette breaks

From February 1st, 2020, government workers in the Swiss canton of Ticino will be required to punch a clock every time they want to have a cigarette.

No smoking? Swiss canton cracks down on employee cigarette breaks
Photo: Depositphotos

The move has been justified as a way of improving employee productivity, with proponents of the new law arguing that too much time is being lost to frequent employee cigarette breaks. 

Advocates also argue that non-smokers are penalised under the current system. 

Under the current law, employees are entitled to two 15-minute breaks per day. While employees will not need to punch the clock if they smoke during this time, all smoking outside these two break periods will be measured. 

The law will also see ashtrays removed from outside government buildings. 

The law will initially apply to the cantonal and governmental parliament buildings, but is set to be expanded to other government buildings throughout the canton in future. 

Fabio Badasci, from the Ticino League, said that the move was justified not only due to productivity concerns – but was needed in order to be fair to all workers. 

Badasci told Swiss news site Le Temps “continuous absences from work for smoking represent unequal treatment between smokers and non-smokers – and (result in) a loss of productivity”. 

Smoking has been forbidden in enclosed areas in Switzerland since 2010, although the country is still considered to be one of the most ‘smoke friendly’ in Europe. 

Swiss train stations only went smoke free in 2019, with the installation of airport-style smoking areas on many platforms. 

READ: Swiss train stations go 'smoke free' in 2019

An estimated 27 percent of Swiss residents smoke. 

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