Report: drink and drugs policy neglected by Swiss politicians

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Report: drink and drugs policy neglected by Swiss politicians
Photo: Florian Christoph

The government is not doing enough to tackle addiction in Switzerland because economic interests take priority, according to a new report.


In its 2017 overview of addiction to smoking, drinking, drugs and gambling, Swiss Addiction said that “conflicts of interest are paralyzing policy on addition” and as a result improvements are not being seen. 
“This phenomenon is no doubt linked to the fact that the work of the government, the role of citizens and the interests of industry are entangled in many ways.”
A quarter of Swiss residents over 15 are smokers, according to the study, a figure that hasn’t changed much since 2011, unlike in other European countries. 
More than half say they want to stop, an increase on four years previously, “but the omnipresence of cigarette advertising doesn’t make it easy,” said the report. 
“According to a recent study led by Swiss Addiction most of the population would like to ban cigarette advertising but the federal parliament is against effective legal regulations on smoking products,” it added.
Figures for drinking haven’t changed much either. In 2016, the rate of alcohol consumption per person was 8.1 litres, the same as in 2015, said the organization. 
A fifth of the population over 15 drink too much alcohol or too often, a statistic that is on the rise in the 20-24 age group. 
And some 250,000 people -- the equivalent of the cantons of Neuchatel and Jura put together -- have “lost control” of their drinking. 
“The authorities could bring down consumption by adopting appropriate measures,” it said, for example restricting the hours during which alcohol can be purchased or altering the price. But such changes have not been made. 
“As a result, problems linked to alcohol have not diminished,” it said. 
It also attacked drugs policy, saying that while drugs were strictly regulated, it was problematic that the way in which the law was enforced differed from canton to canton. 
Though it is illegal to smoke or grow cannabis, some cantons turn a blind to consumption. 
Around 210,000 people have recently smoked cannabis that was bought – and often produced – in Switzerland, said Swiss Addiction.
The organization stuck out at politicians who oppose plans by some cities to look at alternative ways to regulate cannabis consumption, saying they were sending a message that “it’s better to stick to a law that isn’t respected and doesn’t guarantee equal treatment”.
Addiction is disappearing from the political agenda, said the organization, “no doubt linked to the fact that public powers themselves benefit from having weak regulation”. 
Industry lobby groups also have too much influence on law makers, it said.
To justify this, it’s often claimed that the public should take responsibility for their own habits, it said. 
“But what does that mean for people who have lost control?,” it asked, saying this ‘laissez-faire’ attitude was hardly helpful for the 100,000 children who grow up with an alcoholic parent.
“In focusing solely on individual responsibility, we overlook the fact that addiction problems are not only linked the individual but also the environment and society. 
Reacting to the news, Swiss People’s Party MP Gregor Rutz told 20 Minuten that the report was twisting reality and that it was “absurd” to say that parliament had neglected these problems. 


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