Senators have agreed to ban the sale of cigarettes to minors and put stricter limits on tobacco advertising in print and online media amid growing public pressure and criticism from global health officials.
On Thursday, an overwhelming majority in the Senate voted in favour of tightening the federal tobacco law, helping bring the country in line with World Health Organisation standards on tobacco control.
The law is more stringent than Federal Council recommendations to limit a ban to tobacco advertising specifically targeting minors. Previous attempts by parliament to tighten the tobacco law have come up against a bloc of right-of-centre parliamentarians fearful of the economic consequences.
But, the situation changed following the submission of a popular initiative on tobacco advertising to youth a couple of weeks ago, which injected more urgency into the debate.
While the law prohibits advertising in print and online media, some politicians argued that the law didn’t go far enough. Specifically, advertising in movie theatres, on consumer products and at point of sale, as well as direct mailings to adults would still be allowed under the law as long as they carry a warning label.
Cantons would be permitted to pursue more restrictive laws. As of now, eleven cantons prohibit the sale of cigarettes to minors, while twelve have set the minimum age at 16 years. Three cantons have no limits.
The law tightens the screws on the tobacco industry in Switzerland, which hosts some of the biggest global tobacco firms including Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco.
Under the law, tobacco firms would no longer be able to sponsor international events or activities organised by the government. Companies would need to declare to the Federal Office of Public Health the amount spent annually on advertising, promotion and sponsorship, the senators added on Thursday.
This provision comes after the foreign affairs ministry came under fire for a partnership with Philip Morris International to sponsor the Swiss Pavillion at the World Expo in Dubai. The ministry eventually cancelled the contract with the tobacco giant.
The Senate also called to extend any ban on smoking in places to include vaping with or without nicotine. Senators also submitted a motion to the Federal Council to reintroduce a tobacco tax on electronic cigarettes.
The Senate now passes the baton to the House of Representatives.