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Proposed ad ban yields passionate response

Tobacco advertising remains controversial in Switzerland Keystone

Cabinet has recommended that tobacco advertising and cigarette sales to those younger than 18 be banned in Switzerland. The question will be put before parliament, with many aspects – including loopholes for sponsorship – bringing fierce criticism from both sides of the debate.

Smoking prevention groups like the Swiss Lung League, the Swiss Cancer Association and the Swiss Addiction Association say Interior Minister Alain Berset’s proposal to reign in smoking advertising doesn’t go far enough.

Under the suggestion, outdoor festivals and points of sale would be exempt from the advertising ban because of sponsorship considerations. The anti-smoking organisations want a comprehensive ban.

For its part, the Swiss Advertising Association urges caution, saying experience shows that advertising bans don’t always have the expected effects. Its spokesperson Thomas Meier says it is important that goods that can be freely purchased should also be freely advertised.

He added small businesses like cinemas would especially suffer under the proposed ban, since they currently advertise tobacco products.

The Swiss Media Association also spoke out against banning the advertisement of freely available products, saying the smoking ban proposal goes against cabinet’s goal of supporting media organisations while taking away one of their main sources of advertising funding.

Business groups like the Swiss Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises spoke of “serious state intervention in economic freedom,” saying the health ministry wanted to “patronise citizens and expand bureaucracy”.

Twenty-two Swiss cantons already have age restrictions in place on tobacco sales, which vary from 16 to 18 years. The debate over cabinet’s proposal will now enter a consultation phase, after which a final bill will be presented to parliament for consideration.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR