Geneva citizens said no to second-hand smoke in a big way on Sunday. In a referendum attracting record participation, almost four out of every five voters supported an initiative to ban smoking in all indoor public places in the Swiss canton.
The International Union Against Cancer (UICC), which has its secretariat in Geneva, campaigned actively for this result.
UICC flags flew on the city's principal bridge, the Pont Mont-Blanc; UICC booths in downtown Geneva spread the message to parents and families; posters with the UICC logo appeared on billboards all over the city.
On World Cancer Day (4 February) UICC held a press conference in support of the initiative together with two local tobacco control organizations (CIPRET and Oxygeneve), the Genevan Cancer League and the Swiss Cancer League.
The conclusive vote on 24 February paves the way for legislation banning smoking in all indoor public places, including restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The law may take up to a year to pass; but interim regulations imposing a blanket ban will be introduced within weeks, the canton says.
"We see this vote in Geneva as a milestone and an example for those parts of Switzerland that have yet to ban smoking," says UICC executive director Isabel Mortara.
The Swiss federal parliament is considering a national smoke-free law, but the cantons (self-governing states) aren't waiting for Bern to act. Geneva is the sixth Swiss canton to go smoke-free. First was Ticino, in spring 2007. The others are Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Graubünden, Solothurn, and Valais, with further cantonal votes expected later this year.
"These moves fit well with UICC's current cancer prevention campaign, "I love my smoke-free childhood', which focuses on the risks of second-hand smoke and the benefits of smoking bans from the viewpoint of our children," Mortara says.
According to the World Health Organization, roughly 700 million children - almost half the world's children - breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke. On World Cancer Day, UICC released Protecting our children from second-hand smoke, an expert report presenting recent research on second-hand smoke in children's environments and recommendations for action across the world.
"Smoke-free legislation has been gathering pace ever since 2004, when Ireland became the first country to go completely smoke-free. It plays a critical role in promoting public health," Mortara adds. "We are especially pleased that Geneva may well be smoke-free before our 20th World Cancer Congress takes place here at the end of August."
Reported by World Cancer Congress