Federal Court reverses Geneva smoking ban

Smokers in Geneva will be able to light up again in public buildings after the country’s supreme court reversed the canton’s smoking ban, in force since July 1.

The judgement puts a dent in the nationwide anti-smoking trend with voters in Zurich and Basel voting on Sunday in favour of more restrictive smoking regulations in line with existing practice in several other cantons.

The Federal Court annulled the ruling by the Geneva cantonal government on the grounds that the legal basis for the ban was faulty. The law should first have been adopted by the cantonal parliament before the government exercised its veto.

The pre-emptive power of the local government to make police decisions is only meant to be called upon in cases of serious or imminent danger, which cannot be dealt with under ordinary procedure.

The need to impose a smoking ban in the interest of public health did not constitute such an urgent situation, according to the Federal Court. Almost 80 per cent of the electorate voted for a ban on smoking in public places in February, prompting the government to act quickly.

Since July, anyone daring to smoke in a public building, bar or restaurant in Geneva has risked a fine of SFr100 ($90.95) to SFr1,000. Several individuals had appealed against the legality of the ban.

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