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Shock as kids allowed to smoke at Swiss festival

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Shock as kids allowed to smoke at Swiss festival
Children dressed in the traditional festive costume of Appenzell. File photo: AFP
13:24 CEST+02:00
Experts in clean-living Switzerland are fuming over a tradition that lets children as young as six smoke during a popular festival in the diminutive region of Appenzell.

In a country where regional differences mean everything, tiny Appenzell in eastern Switzerland takes 'being unique' to a whole new level.

Viewed with a mixture of suspicion and envy by their neighbours in the canton of Saint Gallen, the Appenzellers have long had a reputation for stubbornly doing things their own way, and getting comfortably rich in the process.

The region is famous for its cheese, its striking traditional costumes and for a unique public voting ceremony – the Landesgemeinde – which sees men allowed to cast their ballot by raising a bayonet.

With its beautiful rolling hills and quaint architecture, the region – actually made up of two half cantons – is also popular with Swiss and foreign tourists.

But visitors to the October 6th cattle show in the town of Appenzell could well come upon a completely unexpected sight.

On that day, children are allowed to sit back and smoke cigarettes or the thin cigars known as chrummi.

“It’s true that children have the right to smoke during the cattle fair,” Rosalia Keller, a spokesperson for Appenzell Tourism told the newspaper 20 minutes.

“It’s always been like that. Cigarettes are banned in more and more places but here even children are allowed to light one up,” she said.

But health authorities in the region aren’t exactly enamoured with the custom.

“This tradition (of letting children smoke) is accepted by most people here. But we can’t support it,” said regional health director Mathias Cajochen.

At national lung health federation Lungenliga, the response is even stronger.

“Smoking is not good for your health, particularly for children. Their body is still growing. There is even a risk that their lungs won’t fully develop,” a spokesperson said.  

Government figures show some 9,000 people die every year from smoking-related illnesses.

But come October 6th it is highly likely many parents in Appenzell will ignore this figure, and all the warnings, and turn a blind eye as their children puff away.

This is Appenzell after all.

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