ZURICH — Advertisements glamorizing cigarettes will soon be a thing of the past in Switzerland, after voters on Sunday overwhelmingly approved legislation forbidding tobacco companies from displaying them in public spaces.
Health advocates have said that the legislation, which was approved in a referendum, was a significant step toward tightening the country’s loose tobacco regulations.
“Many organizations have stepped up to the plate and advocated for a solution that prioritizes youth protection,” said Flavia Wasserfallen, a member of the Swiss National Council and a proponent of the initiative.
In the West, tobacco ads were commonplace. But, they still have a place in this Alpine country. You’ll see billboards advertising cigarettes and e-cigarettes at movies and events such as music festivals.
But voters made it clear on Sunday that they were no longer interested in seeing them, and despite strong opposition from the tobacco industry and the government, the tougher regulations were approved by 56.6 percent of voters and received strong support from the country’s French- and Italian-speaking regions, despite having the country’s highest smoking rates.
In Switzerland, there have been efforts in recent years to make tobacco-related products more difficult to sell. In 2015, the Federal Council, the country’s executive branch, proposed a Tobacco Products Act that would ban the sale of tobacco and related goods to minors as well as restrict advertising.
A weaker version of the bill was approved by parliament. It forbade sale of tobacco to anyone under 18, but allowed advertising to continue as usual.
A group of over 40 health organizations formed to address the weakness in the tobacco legislation and launched the most recent initiative. The revamped Tobacco Products Act will include the advertising-related provisions approved by voters on Sunday. It is expected to go into effect in 2023.
“The majority of our country has decided to correct Parliament’s decision on the Tobacco Products Act,” Hans Stöckli, who serves as the president of the committee behind the initiative, said on Sunday. Mr. Stöckli described the result as “a historic milestone” and as “a necessary step” toward improved tobacco regulation.
Opponents called the stricter restrictions extreme. While they all agreed that tobacco should have an age limit, the new rules could be considered a ban de facto on legal tobacco products as children could be exposed to ads anywhere.
Switzerland has been close to the tobacco industry for a long time. Japan Tobacco International, Philip Morris, and British American Tobacco have strong representations in Switzerland.
About 3,000 people work in the industry. 4,500 peopleAccording to the government, Switzerland is involved in the production of high tar cigarettes, which are illegal to sell or produce in the European Union. Cigarettes rank with chocolate and cheese as some of the country’s leading exports.
Even after the new rules go into effect, Switzerland will still have liberaler tobacco regulations than other countries. And it will also still not fulfill all of the requirements needed to ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international response to combating the tobacco epidemicDespite having signed it in 2004, The United States also has not ratified it.
The Tobacco Products Act wasn’t the only issue that was on Sunday’s ballot. People feared that the proposed ban on all animal and human experiments in Switzerland would cut off access to global medical advancements. Voters rejected it.
Voters also rejected the government’s proposal to expand subsidies to online media stations as well to radio and television stations in regional areas.
The government approved amendment to federal stamp duties act which would have made it more affordable for companies to raise new capital was also rejected. Opponents said it would only benefit large companies.