Coming back from a 3-week vacation in the tropics, I was glad to get back to the mild temperatures of Switzerland. But it was not only the climate, unusually cold at this time to the year, which surprised me. A much more welcome difference was that starting May 1, the canton of Zurich finally implement the low-awaited/long-dreaded (depending on which side you are) smoking ban.
Yes, Switzerland, that model of efficiency, cleanliness, and healthy living was rather late in joining the rest of the developed world in achieving a smoke-free environment. Even some developing countries are ahead. Take the case of my birth country the Philippines. Restaurants are practically smoke-free now and those who need to light up have to sit outside in the blistering heat. This is such a big relief for a lot of people, considering that most establishments are enclosed and air-conditioned. Imagine how it was when people could smoke in air-conditioned rooms!
This wasn’t the case in my adopted hometown when I left in mid-April. The smoke ban has already been implemented in many parts of Switzerland and Zurich is probably among the very last to adopt the law. In law the legislation has been there but its implementation has been postponed several times. It is probably because Swiss establishments value their customers highly and they needed more time to build special “smoking lounges” complete with air filters to accommodate the smoking segment of their clientele. It is not just a question of sending them out to the terrace or balcony which works rather well in summertime but nasty and cruel in the winter time.
The dilemma of the Swiss was demonstrated when we went to the Whitney Houston concert here in Zurich last night. I used to hate going to the Hallen Stadion, the biggest concert hall in town because the lobby or foyer was smoky and smelly. But last night was different. We didn’t even have to resort to stepping inside at the very last minute. There was this large billboard sign up front with a no smoking sign and from the speakers, a man is calling out giving instructions: smokers, smoke outside while you can as there is no going out or turning back. In other words, going inside the concert hall is a one-way ticket to 2 plus hours of no smoking entertainment. The concert hall, too, has failed to provide a special smoking lounge in time.
I do feel a bit of sympathy for the smokers but then when I think of the health benefits of the smoke ban, not only for me and my family, but for the rest of the population, I am really very happy. Besides, if people can refrain from smoking during a 10-hour flight (such as what we have had to get to the orient), then they can also do without smoking during a meal or a 2-hour concert.
Countries who have implemented the practice rather early in the game are already reaping the benefits, e.g. lower rates of cardiovascular problems, especially heart attacks.
I applaud the implementation of the smoking ban in Zurich, a move that will benefit the health of everybody, non-smokers and smokers alike.