Report laments lack of political action on addiction issues

In Switzerland, 75,000 people struggle with gambling addiction Keystone

A report on addiction in Switzerland shows little change in gambling, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse since last year. Advocacy organisations argue the government is kowtowing to special interests and has not done enough to address a “highly problematic” situation.

This content was published on February 17, 2017 - 16:10

A quarter of the Swiss population smokes and more than half of those want to quit, according to the latest numbers from a report published on Thursday by the national research and advocacy group, Addiction Switzerland, In addition, 21% of people in Switzerland drink alcohol in amounts that could be hazardous, and a quarter million people have alcohol addiction problems. 

“The political sphere is accepting the status quo in order to defend special interests,” said Markus Meury, a spokesperson for the group. As an example, he points to lobbying efforts that recently helped kill an attempted ban on smoking advertising in Swiss parliament.

An effort to ban the sale of alcohol after a certain time of night also failed in parliament in 2016. Some 1,600 people die of alcohol abuse in Switzerland every year, a situation Meury calls “highly problematic”. 

Gambling law up for debate

Another 75,000 people in Switzerland suffer from a gambling addiction. Swiss parliament is set to debate new gambling restrictions to address addiction in its upcoming session. Addiction Switzerland has called on lawmakers to properly weigh the issues facing gambling addicts against the interests of the gambling industry. 

Last summer, the Senate rejected a gambling tax to combat addiction as well as age controls on gambling machines. Casinos will soon be allowed to operate online gambling platforms throughout the country. 

Addiction Switzerland also pointed out in its most recent report that cannabis consumption is not regulated the same way in all cantons, with law enforcement officials reacting in different ways depending on the place. Under a 2013 law, anyone over 18 caught in possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis will receive a CHF100 ($100) fine and avoid having a criminal record. 

Average yearly alcohol consumption in Switzerland stands at 10.7 liters per capita, placing the country 34th in the world behind France, Germany and the United Kingdom but ahead of Italy and the United States, according to the latest available World Health Organization data. 

Switzerland is 25th in the world in terms of per capita cigarette consumption, ahead of most other Western European countries.

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