Switzerland finally approves ban on tobacco advertising

Switzerland finally approves ban on tobacco advertising

Today, Switzerland finally approved a ban on tobacco advertising “wherever young people see it.”

Nearly 57 percent of voters and 16 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons supported a near-total ban on tobacco advertising.

The country lags far behind most wealthy countries in restricting tobacco advertising, a situation that many blame on heavy lobbying by some of the world’s largest tobacco companies headquartered in the country.

The Swiss tobacco industry contributes about six billion Swiss francs ($6.5 billion, €5.7 billion) to the economy every year.

The industry accounts for about 11,500 jobs and 27 percent of the Swiss adult population smokes.

Most tobacco advertising is now legal at the national level, with the exception of television and radio advertising and when targeted specifically at minors.

The Swiss government and parliament are among the opponents of the initiative, who say it goes too far.

Right-wing Liberal MP Philipp Bauer warned: “Today we are talking about cigarettes, but soon we will be talking about alcohol and meat.”

The final results showed that nearly 57 percent of voters and 16 of Switzerland's 26 cantons supported a near total ban on tobacco advertising.  In the photo: an election poster, which translates as “Tobacco today!  Wine tomorrow?  in advertising against tobacco advertising

The final results showed that nearly 57 percent of voters and 16 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons supported a near total ban on tobacco advertising. In the photo: an election poster, which translates as “Tobacco today! Wine tomorrow? in advertising against tobacco advertising

Stephanie De Borba of the Swiss League Against Cancer said: “We are very happy. People have realized that health is more important than economic interests.”

Some Swiss cantons have introduced stricter legislation in their regions and a new national law is expected.

But the campaigners who put the issue to a vote under the Swiss system of direct democracy demanded much tougher rules.

Mr. Bauer denounced “this dictatorship of the politically correct when everything has to be regulated.”

His concerns echo those expressed by Philip Morris International (PMI), the world’s largest tobacco company.

PMI, like British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco, is headquartered in Switzerland and helped fund the “No” campaign.

A spokesman for PMI Switzerland said: “It’s a slippery slope when it comes to personal freedom.”

A spokesman condemned today’s result and said Parliament should show “moderation and measure” in passing the decision as law.

But Jean-Paul Humeir, head of the Geneva-based Drug Prevention Center, called today’s victory a “very important step” in the fight against tobacco use and vehemently dismissed the industry’s arguments.

Mr. Humeir said, “It’s not a question of freedom… It’s an illusion of freedom.”

The Swiss government and parliament are among the opponents of the initiative, who say it goes too far.  Pictured: An election poster reading

The Swiss government and parliament are among the opponents of the initiative, who say it goes too far. Pictured: An election poster reading “Children against tobacco, YES” and “Tobacco advertising encourages children to smoke” in Lausanne after the Swiss voted to tighten their tobacco laws today.

He said that tobacco use is highly addictive and kills half of all smokers.

Mr Humeir added: “There is no other consumer product that kills half of all users.”

More than a quarter of the adult population in Switzerland consumes tobacco products.

Activists say the country’s loosening of advertising laws has hindered efforts to reduce smoking rates.

Around 9,500 tobacco-related deaths occur annually in Switzerland.

Pascal Diethelm, head of tobacco control group OxyRomandie, said today’s vote should lead to a “paradigm shift” for the federal government.

“(They) have been accepting for far too long that health prevention policies are under the tutelage of big business,” they said.

Meanwhile, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters that it could take time for a near-ban to come into effect.

He said: “It really seems impossible that it will go into effect this year.”

New restrictions on tobacco advertising could be added to a new law due to go into effect next year that would set a national minimum age for buying tobacco products for the first time.

In today’s vote, other issues also did not receive due attention.

Nearly 80 percent of voters rejected the call to ban all animal testing.

All political parties, parliament and government opposed the initiative, arguing that it had gone too far and would have dire consequences for medical research.

Nearly 80 percent of voters rejected the call to ban all animal testing.  Pictured: a mouse in a plastic box at the Laboratory Animal Service Center of the University of Zurich in Switzerland (file image)

Nearly 80 percent of voters rejected the call to ban all animal testing. Pictured: a mouse in a plastic box at the Laboratory Animal Service Center of the University of Zurich in Switzerland (file image)

Residents in the northern canton of Basel-Stadt also rejected en masse a proposal to grant non-human primates some of the same basic fundamental rights as their human cousins, with nearly 75 percent opposed in another animal-themed vote.

And more than 55 percent of voters also rejected the national government’s plan to provide additional public funding to media companies whose advertising revenues have plummeted in recent years.

Nearly 44 percent of Swiss voters took part in today’s vote, which is not unusually low for a country where such popular votes are held every few months.

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