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New Year heralds 396 new laws

An economic stimulus package and simpler VAT rules are among 396 new federal laws and legal amendments which have come into force on Friday.

It is fewer than the previous year when 425 legal changes were introduced.

An economic recovery package of SFr300 million ($290 million) - Switzerland's third since the onset of the global financial crisis - has provisions for employment and aims to strengthen purchasing power. Measures for short-term work will only be introduced if the unemployment rate tops five per cent.

The first phase of changes to VAT began, aimed at reducing the administrative burden of businesses. Tax on tobacco went up five-fold to SFr50 per kilo and CO2 tax rose from three to nine centimes per litre of heating oil, although the latter will be put back into public health insurance.

As of Friday Switzerland also has a new commission for the prevention of torture, an independent organisation that should have unrestricted access to all Swiss detention centres.

Among the other changes, those who want to keep a weapon after their military service must first obtain a permit, and heroin will continue to be offered as a medical treatment in Switzerland with the practice now anchored in the law. and agencies

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