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Swiss voters strike down tougher smoking laws

Swiss voters opted out of a harsher smoking ban in a referendum held on Sunday.

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A man lights a cigarette with a lighter on September 6, 2012. Swiss voters struck down a ban on smoking in public places in a referendum September 23, 2012. (Eric Feferberg /AFP/Getty Images)

Swiss voters said "no" to harsher smoking laws in the country.

In a referendum on the issue held on Sunday, 65.4 percent of voters in 25 of the nation's 36 cantons voted against a ban on smoking in all public places, RIA Novosti reported

Geneva went against the trend of most of the country, supporting the ban by 52 percent to 48 percent, BBC News reported.

The country's current smoking laws, which were introduced in 2010, forbid smoking in restaurants and cafes unless they are very small, or provide well-ventilated, designated rooms for smokers, the South African Press Association reported. Many cantons have stricter rules in place.

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"In the cantons where these laws [banning smoking rooms] are already in effect, we saw immediately... a 20 percent drop in hospitalization due to cardiovascular incidents, heart attacks and these kinds of problems," Jean-Charles Rielle, a doctor and member of the committee behind the proposal, told Agence France Presse before the referendum

However, businesses that have experienced a drop in profits or clientele because of the ban called it "a witch-hunt, a hygienism pushed to extremes" according to Laurent Terlinchamp, president of Geneva's association of cafe owners, restaurateurs and hoteliers.

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"In Geneva, where the law came in two years ago, we were told that a new clientele would start to come back to establishments," Terlinchamp said, AFP reported. "But it's not the case today because profits are down 10 percent to 30 percent depending on the type of business."

According to a study by the World Health Organization, it was estimated that second-hand smoke kills over 600,000 non-smokers around the world every year.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/120923/swiss-voters-strike-down-tougher-smoking-laws