Health For Members

REVEALED: Just how much do the Swiss smoke?

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
REVEALED: Just how much do the Swiss smoke?
How much do the Swiss smoke? Photo by lil artsy from Pexels.

Many people in Switzerland enjoy a smoke break at work or on the odd boozy night out, but just how much do the Swiss smoke on average?


According to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), every year 9,500 people in Switzerland die prematurely as a result of smoking, which equates to 26 people per day. With almost 2 million smokers, tobacco consumption is one of the biggest public health problems in Switzerland.

In fact, November is earmarked in Switzerland as a “Month Without Tobacco," so it is a good time to quit once and for all.

The national online campaign, promoted by the Tobacco Prevention Fund, aims to “offer a tool to help the many people who wish to free themselves from cigarettes".

Here’s some more information on smoking in Switzerland.

What is the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products?

As with many things in Switzerland, the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products varies by canton and is usually 16 or 18 years.

As of June 1st, 2023, the following cantons will not let anyone under the age of 16 years purchase tobacco products: Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Glarus, Graubünden, St. Gallen, Uri, Lucerne, and Zurich.

The cantons of Bern, Basel-City, Basel-Country, Fribourg, Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Vaud, Valais, and Zug have set the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products at 18 years.

Meanwhile, the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Schwyz have set no minimum age limit for purchasing tobacco products within their borders.

What are the rules for e-cigarettes?

According to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), e-cigarettes currently fall within the scope of the Food Act until the Tobacco Products Act comes into force in mid-2024.


The Tobacco Products Act will not only specify what type of graphic warning should  be used on e-cigarette packs, but it will also ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18.

However, the first cantons have already begun to establish a minimum age requirement for buying and being handed e-cigarettes.

The cantons to not allow the sale or handover of e-cigarettes to under 18-year-olds are Bern (which also bans the sale or handover of nicotine products for oral use that do not contain tobacco to those under 18), Basel-City, Basel-Country, Fribourg, Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel, Obwalden, Thurgau, Ticino, and Valais.

READ MORE: Alcohol to sexual consent: What are Switzerland's minimum legal ages?

Just how many people in Switzerland smoke?

In 2022 – the most current data, 24 percent of the population over 15 years old smoked in Switzerland. For men it was 27 percent (18.3 percent of whom were daily smokers) and for women it was 21 percent (14 percent daily smokers).

Of those aged 15 to 24, 26 percent smoked.


61.8 percent of male smokers in Switzerland reported that they would like to quit the habit, while 58.8 percent of women stated the same.

What about passive non-smokers?

In addition to smokers in Switzerland, around 4.9 percent of men and 3.3 percent of women are considered non-smokers exposed to passive smoking for approximately one hour per day.

The number of people involuntarily exposed to tobacco smoke for at least one hour per day in Switzerland has decreased from 35 percent in 2002 to 6 percent in 2017. The main reason for this development, according to FSO, is the federal law on protection against passive smoking, which came into force in 2010, as well as smoking bans in individual cantons that were introduced earlier.

How many people smoke e-cigarettes?

In 2022, 3 percent of the Swiss population used e-cigarettes at least once a month. In adolescents between 15 and 24 years of age, this prevalence was 5.7 percent – a trend that is on the increase.

Are there places in Switzerland where you can’t smoke?

According to FOPH, restaurants, cafés, bars, and discos are publicly accessible spaces where smoking is generally prohibited in Switzerland.

But there can be exceptions.

At times, restaurants will set up smoking rooms that can take up to a third of the total area of the serving rooms (fumoirs).

Small restaurants with a maximum area of 80 square meters can apply to the canton for a permit as a smoking establishment (provided there are no cantonal regulations prohibiting this).


READ MORE: How much do the Swiss like to drink alcohol?

How much is the tobacco use costing the Swiss economy?

The Swiss population’s tobacco consumption is costing Switzerland’s economy around 3.9 billion Swiss francs per year, of which 3 billion Swiss francs are used for medical treatment and 0.9 Swiss billion francs for loss of income.

Non-communicable diseases that are caused by tobacco consumption lead to above-average use of medical services in Switzerland as well as a reduced quality of life or even the inability to work. This means that those diseases contribute to increasing social insurance costs.

How many people die in Switzerland from tobacco consumption?

In Switzerland, tobacco consumption causes 9,500 deaths every year. This equates to 26 deaths a day and 14 percent of all deaths in Switzerland.

The majority of tobacco-related deaths in Switzerland are linked to cardiovascular diseases (34 percent), followed by lung cancer (29 percent), respiratory diseases (17 percent) and other types of cancer (16 percent).

In 2017, 6,000 men and 3,500 women died prematurely in Switzerland as a result of smoking.

What does Switzerland do to reduce tobacco-related deaths?

The Federal Office of Public Health hopes to reduce the number of tobacco-related deaths and illnesses in Switzerland.

The federal government and its partners’ tobacco prevention strategy is based on a balanced mix of behavioural and relational prevention. The former motivates individuals to lead a smoke-free life and supports them in quitting, while prevention is meant to improve the social framework for non-smoking, for example with smoke-free public spaces or restrictions on sales.

The goals and measures of tobacco prevention are set out in the National Strategy for the Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases (NCD strategy). You can find more information on it here.


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