Paul Bilton smokes, but only passively. Now he's trying to quit.

A night out on the town too often means that your clothes need to spend the night out too – on a coat hanger, on the balcony, trying to get rid of the smell of smoke from where you spent your night out. In fact it's not only your outer clothes that stink, mine smell down to my underwear and even my skin smells of tobacco. More important, I wonder how my lungs fare after a smokey night out.

Among the many strange and amazing statistics about Switzerland is the fact that in Europe we are second only to Hungary in our per head consumption of tobacco – that's smoking it, not growing it, although Switzerland does that too.

For many years there have been laws requiring restaurateurs to provide no-smoking areas in their establishments. Of all the many laws in Switzerland, this has to be the one that is the least enforced. Whenever I enter a restaurant I always ask for a no-smoking table. If I had a free meal for every waiter who informed me that if I didn't smoke at the table it would indeed be a no-smoking one, I would be a rich man and pushing 150 kilos by now. Of course, it's not my table that is the problem - it is the smokers on the ones round mine.

Even the tobacco companies have finally coughed up and admitted their products are killing their customers. In the UK & USA the clear evidence that their habit kills, has persuaded smokers to quit in droves, bringing down the percentage of smokers from 40% of the adult population in 1978 to 27% today and still declining. This was not done overnight nor was it achieved without considerable financial input by the governments concerned. In Switzerland between 1992 and 1997 smoking in the age group 17 to 24 actually increased from 31% to 43%.

We worry about where the meat comes from when we eat out. Yet how many people a year die from the human version of mad-cow disease? There are scares about the radiation from mobile phone masts and the phones themselves. Yet how many people a year die from mobile phone use? Meanwhile 8,000 people a year in this country die prematurely from smoking related causes – 800 of them before they reach 55.

In summer when ozone reaches danger level, without a single related death occurring, predefined measures are put into force. Speed limits are reduced on the Autobahns and ‘car-free’ days are called for. Switzerland led Europe with the introduction of catalytic converters, but still hangs back with any measures to curb her population from smoking.

Millions of taxpayers’ money is poured into recommending us to indulge in ‘Safer Sex’. AIDS kills less than 250 people a year here. Yet the only advertising we see about tobacco is to encourage us to smoke more.

Switzerland is a great place to live – we could make it even greater and save lives at the same time by finally getting to grips with our land’s last filthy habit. We could start by getting over the message that it is not cool to smoke, but plain stupid.