A proposal to restrict tobacco advertisements in public places, newspapers, cinemas and the internet has been rejected by the Swiss parliament.
The House of Representatives on Thursday joined the Senate in refusing to pass a law on tobacco advertising on the grounds it went too far and was unlikely to be effective. The law was intended to prevent young people from smoking at an early age.
Health Minister Alain Berset, who was in favour of the restriction, had said most smokers took up the habit before they turned 18 and the measure would reduce health costs by up to CHF600 million ($597 million) annually in Switzerland.
Besides limiting advertising, the proposal also called for a ban on free promotional samples and a limit on discounts on cigarette packs. It would also have prohibited tobacco companies from sponsoring international events, although they would still have been allowed to sell their wares at domestic festivals and open-air events.
Parliamentarians cited the example of France, where the ban on advertising has not resulted in a decline in the number of smokers. The proportion of smokers in France is 32% compared with almost 25% in Switzerland, a figure that has been stable since 2013. Fifteen years ago, 33% of Swiss residents were smokers.
Other points of contention included e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Some parliamentarians did not want e-cigarette users to be burdened with the same restrictions as conventional cigarette smokers. They also wanted the situation concerning chewing tobacco to be clarified.
The main opposition to the law came from the political right. Supporters of the law – parties on the political left – expressed dismay at the lack of a law on tobacco advertising.
The current regulations are based on transitional provisions that are valid until 2021. In addition, Switzerland signed the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Controlexternal link in 2004 but the new tobacco advertising law is essential in order to ratify it.
swissinfo.ch and agencies