According to a study published by the Swiss federal office of public health last December1, two thirds of the Swiss public were in favour of banning tobacco advertising, everywhere except at the point of sale. 58% were even in favour of a blanket ban, while one in six wanted to see cigarette price increases. Switzerland’s parliament does not appear to share this view.
A plan put forward by Federal Councillor Alain Berset to restrict tobacco advertising was rejected by parliament today by 101 votes to 75. Those against the plan think it went too far and said there was nothing that proved that banning advertising would reduce tobacco consumption. In addition, they thought a federal ban limited the power of cantons to introduce stricter rules.
A 2013 World Health Organisation report2 said “complete bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship decrease tobacco use”. The WHO report also said that the best estimate is that the tobacco industry spends tens of billions of US dollars worldwide each year on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. In the United States alone, the tobacco industry spends more than US$ 10 billion annually.
Berset’s proposed rules would have banned advertising in public spaces, in cinemas, in the press and on the internet. Distribution of free samples and some promotional price reductions would have also been banned. According to a WHO report these practices are banned in Spain, France, Sweden, Holland, Portugal, the UK and a number of other European countries, but not Switzerland.
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Corine Kibora, spokesperson for Addiction Suisse described parliament’s decision as “disappointing” and “proof that the arguments of lobbyists and the economy triumphed over the public’s health”, while adding that as the trend towards favouring individual choice over collective responsibility takes over we seem to have forgotten the central point: business and advertisers are driven to make sales.
According to Swiss federal office of public health, Swiss smokers dropped from 33% of the population in 2001 to 25% in 2015. However, since 2011, the number of smokers has stayed stubbornly high. In addition, it calculates the annual cost of tobacco at tens of billions of francs per year of which CHF 1.7 billion goes on medical treatments and CHF 3.9 billion on compensation for work absenteeism and invalidity. On the other hand, tobacco tax only brings in CHF 2 billion annually.
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Read full 20 Minuten article (in German)
1 Survey on advertising and price of tobacco – opens PDF (in French and German)
2 WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2013 – opens PDF (in English)
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Pascal Diethelm (@pdiethelm) says
Switzerland is trying to get an (illusory) financial advantage out of its breaking ranks with the international community and going to bed with the tobacco companies. This is part of an old Swiss tradition that places money above all other values, including the health of its population.
This reminds us of Switzerland’s attitude towards the apartheid regime in South Africa in the second part pf the 20th Century. Countries of the world grew more and more united in their opposition to apartheid and eventually adopted, under the aegis of the UN, economic sanctions against Pretoria. Switzerland refused to associate itself with the sanctions. On the contrary, it took the situation as an opportunity to increase its share of the gold and diamond business, taking it away from countries which applied the sanctions. In this whole affair, the Swiss government acted with excessive timidly, expressing its political reservation and moral condemnation of the apartheid regime with extreme reservation, while giving in to the argument of the bankers and according priority to economic considerations over any moral and humanitarian concern. The parallel between the apartheid episode and the way Switzerland deals today with the tobacco industry issue is thus striking. The same political forces and the same mentalities appear to be at play.
Frank Bette says
These Lobbysts are getting paid by the Tobacco Industry, i.e. Philipp Morris and Japan Tobacco among others to “buy” Swiss Politicians’s conscience, as simple as that!
No surprise since at least 3 Major Tobacco companies have their world HQ’s in Lausanne
And Swiss Politicians well known for supporting the suppliers of Bungs