Tobacco is big business. Its scale makes the industry a formidable foe for those hoping to spare people the damaging health effects of tobacco addiction.
Most people start smoking when they are young so a group in Switzerland launched an initiative to ban tobacco advertising targeted at young people. Swiss voters will vote on the proposal on Sunday 13 February 2022.
In practice it is difficult to ban adverts that might reach young people without banning adverts for everyone. Currently, tobacco advertising is not allowed on Swiss radio and television. The initiative aims to extend the ban to print media, billboards, festivals, cinemas, shops, and most controversially, the internet. It also wants to ban tobacco sponsorship.
Switzerland’s government is against the idea. 101 members of the National Council, Switzerland’s parliament voted against it, 88 for it, with 7 abstentions. The vote proportions were similar in Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house, with 29 against, 14 in favour, with one abstention. The Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive, considers the plan tantamount to a total tobacco advertising ban, which it thinks goes too far. At the same time it is open to measures to protect young people from the dangers of tobacco.
In a parliamentary debate the Federal Council said it would be open to banning tobacco advertising in cinemas and on billboards, as is already the case in several Swiss cantons. The government hopes new legislation restricting tobacco advertising will be enough to satisfy the public ahead of the vote.
In Switzerland, 27% of adults smoke and an even higher 32% of 15-25 year olds smoke. The percentage rises from 16% to 38% between the ages of 15-17 and 24-25. Addiction is a clear feature of tobacco consumption. 50% of 15-25 year olds report they would like to quit. This percentage rises from 34% of 15-17 year old smokers to 66% of 24-25 year olds. And the tobacco industry works hard to market their products. Nearly 57% of 24-25 year olds reported receiving a tobacco-related promotional gift.