Saturday, March 12, 2011

Up in smoke

Growing up in Australia we were exposed to public health campaigns that were nothing if not prolific. The two that stand out though are Slip, Slop, Slap and Quit. Slip, Slop, Slap was a huge campaign starting in 1981 that encouraged people to ‘slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on hat’ to guard against skin cancer, which is a big killer of Australians. As a child during the 80s, I remember the television ad vividly, with its cartoon seagull and catchy jingle.

The other, the Quit campaign, still runs today to encourage people to quit smoking. It has been enormously successful, with smoking virtually banned in all public - and some private - places in some parts of Australia. You cannot smoke in restaurants, bars and nightclubs, at some areas of the beach or parks, and even your own car if there are children inside. The Quit campaign and ensuing laws has made smoking almost socially unacceptable, and there are very few people I know in Australia who are smokers.
Follow the cigarette butt road

I personally hate smoking. It smells, it’s expensive, it prematurely ages you, it’s pretty damaging to your health and of course, it can kill you. So with that attitude to smoking I came to Geneva. Where every second person, it seems, is a smoker. Again, I don't know if it's a Swiss thing, or if it's the French influence coming through in this French-speaking part of Switzerland, but a lot of people here smoke.

Walking the streets of Geneva I feel like I'm constantly dodging clouds of cigarette smoke being blown around me. Clearly there is no quit smoking campaign in Switzerland - or if there is, it's ineffective in Geneva.

Interestingly, the cigarette packs do have those graphic warning labels on them. But judging by the number of cigarette butts on the streets and the cliques of people smoking outside their workplaces, they’re not working.

Obviously smoking here is a social and a cultural thing. I've walked past women well into their 70s sucking on a cigarette. But given the cost - to your wallet, to your looks, to your health - this is one aspect of Genevoise culture I think they can do without. I've seen firsthand – from a sick family member – that it's just not worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Same all over Switzerland--both young and old, male and female. Not sure what the craze is. I first thought the Swiss were super healthy but now I cynically think it's all about looking good. I've seen more advertisements about how smoking is cool rather than the opposite. Australia it seems is leading the anti-smoking campaign.