Switzerland is one of a small number of countries that has not ratified the World Health Organisation (WHO) ban on tobacco advertising known as FCTC.
Currently, Switzerland only bans tobacco advertising on television and radio. The WHO ban goes much further. 181 countries have already ratified the WHO ban. Andorra, Monaco and Liechtenstein are the only countries in Europe that haven’t. Beyond Europe, the United States, Argentina, Cuba, Haiti and Morocco have not ratified it either.
A Swiss government commission has taken a deeper look at the issue after it was suggested that the WHO ban, which Switzerland has signed but not yet ratified, breaches Switzerland’s constitution.
The commission has come up with legal wording that restricts tobacco advertising beyond television and radio that it claims honors the WHO ban, focuses on protecting young people and does not breach the constitution, according to parliament.ch.
Speaking for the commission, Joachim Eder emphasized the importance of protecting young people. 57% of smokers start as minors. Those who avoid tobacco in their youth are unlikely to smoke as adults.
Tobacco consumption is a serious public health issue and the most common cause of preventable death in Switzerland. A quarter of people smoke in Switzerland and it is responsible for 15% of all deaths (9,500 p.a.). The annual cost is estimated to be around CHF 5 billion. CHF 3 billion of this is spent on medical care, something that is difficult to ignore given the current pressure to contain rising healthcare costs.
The commission argues that the constitutional right to freely advertise is outweighed by the constitutional requirement to protect the public interest. Protecting the health of the population, especially those of children and adolescents, takes precedence over the commercial interests of promoting a product, particularly a harmful product, it said.
A majority of the Council of States agreed with the commission by 23 votes to 19.