Minister reviews deal with tobacco firm

Foreign Minister Cassis (centre) attended the opening of the Swiss embassy to Moscow last month. A sponsoring contract with a Russian billionaire for the ceremony also made headlines. Keystone/Yuri Kochetkov

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis says he is considering a request by health groups to exclude a tobacco multinational from sponsoring the Swiss pavilion at next year’s World Expo in the United Arab Emirates.

This content was published on July 26, 2019 - 14:39
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Cassis confirmed that his ministry was reviewing a controversial deal with the American tobacco company Philip Morris, which contributed CHF1.8 million ($1.8 million) towards the Swiss presence in Dubai.

“I have taken note of the public debate. I want Switzerland to be united and give a positive and shining image at the 2020 Expo in Dubai,” Cassis told Swiss public radio, RSI, on Thursday.

He said he wanted to ensure that any negative element be removed and would take a decision in the next few days.

Cassis, a medical doctor, said parliament had agreed to a partly private financing scheme for Switzerland’s presence at the World Expo in an effort to save public money.

Pressure

The foreign ministry has come under intense pressure from Swiss health and anti-addiction groups, as well as universities and the World Health Organization. They argue that accepting tobacco money contradicts ethical principles and is in breach of international rules.

The School of Public Health said it would “do everything possible to prevent a presence of any kind” of the tobacco firm at the Swiss pavilion.

Philip Morris, which has its international operations and research centre in western Switzerland, said the sponsoring deal was an opportunity to highlight science and innovation as it was planning to promote a smoke-free surrogate tobacco product.

Critics say the tobacco industry has a long tradition of lobbying Swiss politicians.

The three international tobacco giants – Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco – have a presence in Switzerland, including factories, offices or even headquarters.

Switzerland has so far refused to ratify the WHO convention on tobacco control.

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