The government wants to introduce a nationwide ban on tobacco sales to consumers younger than 18 in Switzerland and restrict advertising in a bid to step up prevention efforts.
Interior minister Alain Berset, whose portfolio includes health matters, says the bill for parliament is a compromise between health concerns and economic interests.
“It is a moderate and balanced proposal,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.
Berset said the bill was less strict than legislation in other European countries and aimed at streamlining regulations already in place in most of the 26 Swiss cantons.
If approved by parliament, it will allow Switzerland to sign an international convention on tobacco controlexternal link agreed in 2004.
The cabinet proposals include restrictions for advertising tobacco products in cinemas, the internet, at Swiss festivals and on posters.
The law is aimed at preventing the young generation from smoking at an early age, according to Berset. Studies show that most smokers take up the habit before they turn 18, he added. The measure will reduce health costs by up to CHF600 million ($597 million) annually in Switzerland.
However, there won’t be a special tax on the sale of e-cigarettes to adults and there are no plans to introduce a plain cigarette packaging rule.
The Association of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises as well as the political right on Wednesday dismissed the bill as dogmatic and patronising.
Advocacy groups, health organisations and the leftwing Social Democratic Party criticised the bill as not going far enough to prevent smoking, and they accused the cabinet of caving in to pressure from the tobacco industry.
The government had put a draft bill through a process involving broad consultation last year. The response was “very controversial” according to Berset.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch