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Slatkine, et al. v. Grand Conseil of the Canton of Geneva [Switzerland] [March 28, 2007]

Ivan Slatkine and others sued the Grand Conseil of the Canton of Geneva regarding the constitutionality of a popular initiative titled “Second-hand smoke and health.”  The initiative highlights the hazards linked to second-hand smoke and the need to protect the staff of public establishments as well as the persons frequenting them.  The legislative commission of the Grand Conseil (Commission) declared the initiative to be unconstitutional in part because it sought an outright ban of smoking in all public places.  The Commission remedied the provision by carving out an exception for residential premises intended predominantly for private use.  Slatkine and others filed a constitutional complaint, asking the court to find the ban unconstitutional as it is against worker protection and personal freedom.  They also argued that the Commission’s exception was against the intent of the authors.   The Court explained that the exception did not distort the authors’ intentions because it maintained the prohibition of smoking in nearly all public places.  Further, the Court dismissed the argument that the exception is contrary to superior law or infringes on personal freedom.  Notably, the Court cited Article 8 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which calls for smoke-free public places.  The Court stated that as soon as the Treaty was ratified, recognition of the harmful effects of tobacco smoke will constitute an international obligation for Switzerland.  The Court upheld the provision.

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