Swiss to Vote on Advertising Restrictions

    Photo: jivimages

    On Feb. 13, Swiss voters will decide on a popular initiative that calls for greater restrictions on tobacco advertising, reports SWI.

    The initiative aims to ban tobacco and e-cigarette advertising wherever children and adolescents might see it, for example in the press, on posters, on the internet or at events. Advertising directed only at adults or shown in places to which minors have no access would still be allowed.

    For the Federal Council and Parliament, the initiative goes too far, however. They are opposing it with an indirect counter-proposal in the form of the new Tobacco Products Act. The new rules would ban advertising of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes on billboards and in cinemas. In addition, tobacco companies would no longer be permitted to give away free cigarettes or to sponsor international events in Switzerland under the counterproposal. Advertising at kiosks, in the press or on the internet would still be possible, except when aimed at minors, and the sponsorship of national events would still be permitted.

    The new Tobacco Products Act can come into force regardless of the outcome of the vote on the popular initiative. But if the popular initiative is approved, federal authorities will be required to adapt the law to respond to the new requirements.

    Switzerland has one of the weakest tobacco control regimes in Europe. The 2019 Tobacco Control Scale ranked Switzerland second from bottom overall and last in terms of restrictions on tobacco advertising. In addition, Switzerland is the only European country not to have ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

    At present, the advertising of tobacco products is permitted, subject to certain restrictions. Tobacco advertising on radio and television and advertising aimed specifically at minors is banned. Most cantons have brought in more far-reaching bans, prohibiting tobacco advertising on billboards and in cinemas, for example, or stopping tobacco companies from sponsoring events.

    Critics attribute the country’s weak tobacco laws to the fact that Switzerland is home to leading cigarette manufacturers, such as Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International. About a quarter of the Swiss population smokes, including around 100,000 people aged 15 to 19.